Now that we’ve gotten used to Pluto no longer being a planet, here’s another curve ball: Parthenon on the Acropolis most likely has the wrong name.

New research at Utrecht University shows that one of the most famous buildings in the world, the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens, was probably not the Parthenon at all. That name originally belonged to a different building. This is the conclusion of Classical archaeologist Janric van Rookhuijzen following a study of historical sources. The study has been published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal, the American Journal of Archaeology and the Dutch edition of National Geographic Magazine.

The gigantic Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Athena is known as the Parthenon (Greek for ‘house of virgins’). But it was never quite clear where the name came from. Van Rookhuijzen’s new study shows that the name is based on an incorrect assumption: ‘The ancient Greeks themselves originally called the temple the Hekatompedon, which means ‘the hundred-foot temple’. That name shows they found this very remarkable building as impressive as we do today.’ […]

Professor emeritus of Ancient Cultures Josine Blok (Utrecht University) had the following to say about the findings: ‘Where the scientific community is concerned, Van Rookhuijzen’s insight will cause a minor seismic shift. Not only will the names – which have been in use for these buildings for some two hundred years –need to be adjusted, this changes our image of the cult of the goddess Athena and the Acropolis as a whole. The Acropolis was the sacral heart of Athens, but it had a major political significance as well. As a result, the new identity of the central building will have all manner of as-yet unknown repercussions for our historical knowledge of this city-state.’

For my rant about the Acropolis, see this 2002 post. And although maps aren’t really part of the remit of LH, I love them madly, so I’ll use the feeble hook provided by the geography of Athens to link to two wonderful sites that provide panoramic maps and bird’s-eye views (click to enlarge), the Library of Congress for the US and /r/papertowns for the world. Via MetaFilter, where there are interesting comments like:

I love images of places like Childress, Texas. Completely unremarkable towns, tiny, both then and now. But this magnificent aerial perspective panoramic drawing! I guess it was a form of marketing at the time? A key feature of many Texas maps like this is the lovingly drawn courthouse; 19th century Texas was very proud of its courthouse architecture.


  1. They say of the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is…

  2. I think Professor Blok is wildly overstating the effect this will have. Historians and cartographers have not stopped using the name “Castel Sant’Angelo,” after all—and it is not clear that the actual identity of that building was ever even forgotten.

  3. I agree very much with your Parthenon rant, Language. All Dr van Rookhuijzen (Whom God Preserve) of Utrecht is saying here is that ‘House of the Virgins’ should refer to the Erechtheum and not to ‘the hundred-foot temple’. It’s not earth-shaking that two or more names might be used for one structure. The ‘House at Pooh Corner’ refers to the hollow tree where Pooh lives under the name of Sanders, ‘Sanders’ being the name used presumably by the post office but never by a single one of Pooh’s friends.

    If you zoom in on the main street of Childress, Texas, the downtown buildings have those rectangular upper storey billboard-like screens that you see in old cowboy movies and at the top of that Philip Johnson apartment building opposite the Met on Fifth Avenue. The man who drew the aerial perspective, Thaddeus Fowler, had a business in Pennsylvania making what Wikipedia calls pictorial maps. The drawing part isn’t very hard but I should have thought they require an awful lot of info about each block on the site before you start.

  4. What I like about the Childress, TX illustration is that they had a double-track railroad, with two trains, one passenger and one freight, rapidly steaming away from each other on the same track.

    I guess they could do things like that in those days.

  5. David Marjanović says


  6. two trains, one passenger and one freight, rapidly steaming away from each other on the same track.
    Arf. It’s not drawn quite right but I suppose if they had two tracks only at stations and say for 100 yards every 5 miles, and were confident that the signalling wasn’t going to break down, then it saved an awful lot of time & money on tracklaying.

  7. My daughter helpfully suggests that one train departed from platform nine and three quarters.

  8. I agree very much with your Parthenon rant, Language.

    Thanks for that; I feel strongly about it. And fifteen years later, now that the author of the comment is very unlikely to see this, I can let out my bile: to say my post showed “cultural insensitivity as well as sloppy historical knowledge” is stupid and ignorant, and the people who put stables, shops, churches, etc., there were Greeks as well as “invadors,” you asshole.

  9. Er, and happy new year!

  10. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Maybe one of the trains has been backed in for some reason! To keep a line clear for a third to pass through without stopping, I suppose…

    It depends how many trains you’re running, really. Between wherever the West Highland line goes single track (Helensburgh?) and Fort William you can only pass at three places that I can think of – Ardlui, Crianlarich (where the two lines split for Fort William and Oban), and Rannoch.

    There are only four or five trains a day in each direction, and the timetable is set up so that north- and south-bound trains arrive at roughly the same time – if you get there before the train that’s supposed to be waiting for you, you just sit and wait for it.

  11. Lars Mathiesen says

    The old local railways here (some of which are still in operation) even have single track trinbrætter (roughly ‘platforms’) without individual entry and exit signals — a stationary train is only protected by the larger (inter-station) signal block it’s in, and dual track is only found in ‘real’ stations with entry and exit signals.

    When you run two trains per hour in each direction on a 30-mile route that takes 50 minutes or so, you only need 3 intermediate stations. They have more, though, for flexibilty. I guess many US local railways were about the same.

  12. A map doesn’t have to show things that were in their places at the same moment of time. It’s not a photograph! Showing things at a fixed moment is only good because they have less chance to overlap (obiuously, they do, 2d projection of 3d world). Aha, I think I know how to express it better. A fixed map is a projection of 4d world into 2d. Most commonly, it is done by taking the time slice and than representing it. But no need to be that restrictive.

    One of my undergraduate friends took a panoramic photo of the same place in the summer and in the winter and then made one composite with summer in one part and winter in the other. Was harder to do in those days. Now probably doing it every day for a year and then blending into a time changing panorama is not unreasonable school art project.

    Naming building by a nearby structure is a common practice. I remember 3 from top of my head, Collosseum, St. Basil’s in Moscow, and Hermitage in SPb.

  13. John Cowan says

    In any case, this name is no news (as opposed to fake news): in The Ancient Engineers, L. Sprague de Camp’s 1963 non-fiction book, he was already calling it the New Hekatompedon of Athena Polias. He also uses the term in dialogue in his pseudo-time-travel novel The Glory That Was (which is another non-constituent title)

  14. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    the people who put stables, shops, churches, etc., there were Greeks as well as “invadors,” you asshole.

    Of course. Many of the people who bitch about cultural insensitivity don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

    Why is the aqueduct of Segovia in a virtually perfect state two millennia after it was built? Because the people in mediaeval Spain had so much respect for the work of the work of their predecessors? No: because it was built out of hard stone and was almost impossible to vandalize, or to chop bits off to build other things with.

  15. There is an important scene in Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, where the three child protagonists have been studying what they believe is a map of a section of the Cornish coast; however, when they find the right vantage point, they realize that it is actually an landscape drawing, showing a more impressionistic view of the area.

    That book is also an interesting example of something that was written as a fairly realistic standalone novel, with just some hints that something weirder may be going on; but then it became the first installment of a more overtly fantasy series. (Another example that fits this description is The Gunslinger by Stephen King.) In these situations, some of the sequels can be, by many criteria, better books, but I still tend to find them a bit unsatisfying, as if they do not do justice to the ambiguity of the first books.

  16. – “one train departed from platform nine and three quarters.”
    – “A fixed map is a projection of 4d world into 2d.”

    Ryan’s daughter – and isn’t that a 1970 epic romantic drama directed by David Lean? – meet D.O.: You have much to discuss.

    Architect Leonidov who wanted to mess about with Red Square made some great drawings, Language, as I expect you know, a bit like Sant’Elia‘s a few years earlier. His name stuck in my head when I was a teenager but now unfortunately I’ve forgotten why.

    That Maria had no reason to be so rude. Thank God she buggered off, but ‘invadors’ gives that word a bit of class and I like it. About the Parthenon, the image in everyone else’s head of what might have been, I’m guessing, is Hagia Sophia. And about the Acropolis, if the Parthenon was colourfully painted in the 5th Century, a setting more like Hagia Sophia’s in Istanbul would have made that colouring easier to accept now. Sort of like the Alexandra library, I would so love to have seen Phidias’s 40-foot-high gold Athena (the Nashville version is so hideous it’s better not to look).

    And yes, happy new year.

  17. J.W. Brewer says

    Google sez: No results found for “nashville hekatompedon”. Maybe they’ll have some updating to do? (I have driven past the Nashville thingie but not actually peeked inside.)

  18. J.W. Brewer says

    BTW, in other “virginal pagan goddess in the American South” news, a fancy new statue of Minerva has just been unveiled in Tuscaloosa. (Minerva apparently appears on the seal of the University of Alabama, even if she is not quite so locally iconic as the demigod Bear Bryant.)


  19. I wonder about surname of the Classical archaeologist Janric van Rookhuijzen.

    As far as I can tell it means “from smokehouse”.

    Is it another example of a building named after another structure nearby or were Janric’s ancestors literally living in a smokehouse?

  20. Stu Clayton says

    Greater Tuscaloosa has 240K inhabitants. I suppose many of them know and love Minnie Mouse.

  21. Stu Clayton says

    The link responds with

    # Error code 16
    This request was blocked by the security rules

    2020-01-02 19:32:44 UTC
    Your IP212.185.226.160Proxy IP45.60.154.191(ID 10877-100)Origin Server IPN/A
    Incident ID: 877001170384965214-1161572698374866781

    Please Note: We are temporarily unavailable to users from certain countries while we upgrade our site to implement new methods for data processing as required by applicable laws. #

    I don’t think of Germany as a “certain country”. I wonder whether this is a result of Trump tariffs on European goods.

    I’ve experienced these blockages at several American websites. USAToday blocked for a while, now they serve up (in English) a Special European Edition which suppresses images and links in the individual articles.

  22. In any case, this name is no news (as opposed to fake news): in The Ancient Engineers, L. Sprague de Camp’s 1963 non-fiction book, he was already calling it the New Hekatompedon of Athena Polias.

    Ah, I should have known the press release was over-hyping it.

  23. The link responds with

    What link?

  24. Stu Clayton says

    JWB’s Tuscaloosa News link.

  25. Huh, I can see it with no problem. A very flighty-looking goddess.

  26. I don’t think of Germany as a “certain country”. I wonder whether this is a result of Trump tariffs on European goods.

    Might be the impact of GDPR 2016/679 – EU directive on data protection which put such onerous obligations on data protection that some smaller foreign companies find it cheaper to block access to EU-based customers than comply.

  27. Stu Clayton says

    Sure, your IP address is flying the Stars and Stripes.

    Does the status look like Minnie Mouse ?

  28. Stu Clayton says

    @SFReader: thanks, of course that’s the explanation. I had briefly forgotten about all that. It hasn’t hampered me here at all – only at a few small-time websites in the US and Mexico.

  29. If you google [statue of Minerva in Tuscaloosa] you’ll probably get images.

  30. Stu Clayton says

    The UA website isn’t skeered. There’s a big picture of the statue there.

    It doesn’t look at all like Minnie.

  31. David Marjanović says

    As far as I can tell it means “from smokehouse”.

    That -n at the end makes it look more like a placename: plenty of German placenames end in -hausen. (…Notably Entenhausen, i.e. where Minnie Mouse lives.) So apparently there’s a smokey town in the Netherlands, somehow. Maybe all the charcoal burners lived there?

  32. David Marjanović says

    Please Note: We are temporarily unavailable to users from certain countries while we upgrade our site to implement new methods for data processing as required by applicable laws.

    Definitely sounds like EU data protection.

    The other option that came to mind was German copyright law, aggressively enforced by copyright collection corporations. That is the reason why many YouTube videos are inaccessible in Germany. But here I get the same message in Austria, so it’s got to be the EU-wide phenomenon.

  33. John Cowan says

    In Alabama, as Groucho tells us anent elephants, the Tuscaloosa.

    ObEtymology: anent < on even, and originally meant ‘level with’; cf. German neben < in Ebene. (The compounds already appeared in OE and OHG, so the < is strictly speaking a lie.)

  34. PlasticPaddy says

    @dm, sfr
    Rookhuijzen may have been a separate village but seems to have been swallowed up by Swalmen near Roermond (across the border from Düsseldorf). See e.g.
    “Langs de noordelijke oever van de Swalm ligt al eeuwenlang een klein groepje huizen met de naam Rookhuizen. De benaming Rookhuizen is echter vrijwel zeker afgeleid van de voornaam Rochus.”
    This claims that the name of the town land was itself from the first name Rochus. But I don’t know if this is reliable information from a local historian.

  35. You have to admire the article for presenting the thesis of a scholarly paper as incontrovertible fact – and then gussying it up with ridiculously grandiose speculation on its effect on Ancient Greek scholarship (a seismic shift!).

    The author’s argument seems to be that 1) the oldest surviving documents from the Classical periode (inventories of temple treasure inscribed on stone) keep running tallies of treasure located in different chambers; the “hekatompedon” chamber contained the gold statue of Athena and other unique items; the “parthenon” chamber contained more quotidian items; 2) the location of the “parthenon” chamber is not stated explicitly on the steles but the context points to it being within the “large temple” ; 3) a roman travel guide to greece by pausanias – in describing the erechteion – references a number of objects which the inventories place in the “parthenon” chamber; 4) ergo, the parthenon chamber must have been located inside the erechteion and not within the “large temple”. This is a….less than air-tight case. To borrow a legal concept, even if we view all of the factual assertions in the light most favorable to the author, they do not get us to his conclusions.

    At most, the above argument proves that “the parthenon chamber” on the inventory steles was located in the Erechteion. That’s all. Going from there to blithely claiming that the temples are “incorrectly named” is not only not borne out by the evidence in the paper, it’s at war with basic common sense – the author doesn’t dispute that the larger temple has been called the Parthenon since at least the 3rd century BCE. He just thinks that thousands of years of the name Parthenon being in common use are insufficient to cure the original defect in the naming, like some kind of demented ancient history prescriptivist. The substance and form of his argument mirror the old joke about “why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway”, except followed up by tedious insistence that actually it’s not a joke, everyone has been using the terms wrong for decade, and the terms should be switched.

    There’s something both admirable and cringewrothy about his firm and unshakeable belief that literally everyone else on Earth is incorrect except him – in his writing , he unfailingly puts “Parthenon” in scare quotes and uses “the building incorrectly referred to as the Erechteion”, the effect of which is – I suspect – precisely the opposite of the one he intends to convey. Honestly it all seems rooted in some pretty loony ideas about the role of logic when it comes to naming things – for example he thinks it’s “extremely logical” that people would have called a temple with pillars in the shape of maidens a parthenon (parthenos being the Greek word for maiden/virgin).“ (Apparently failing to perceive any logic to calling the temple with the giant Parthenos statue the Parthenon?). He’s vexed by the lack of explanation for the origin of the name parthenon – to him there’s no obvious reason why the west chamber of the temple should have been called that, as if the name could only have resulted from some definable process. To be honest I had assumed that the crazy “Wrong name claim” in the line was the product of journalism’s habit of describing academic research in dramatic terms – but nope, in this case it’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

    I have to admit that it was difficult to take him seriously after I read: “Hekatompedon is a difficult name to pronounce. That may be part of the reason that Parthenon caught on – it was much more catchy”.

  36. There’s something both admirable and cringeworthy about his firm and unshakeable belief that literally everyone else on Earth is incorrect except him

    Yes, that really should have put me off more; I guess my defenses are down. And I did wince at that stupid line about it being “a difficult name to pronounce.” Sheesh.

  37. Lars Mathiesen says

    So we have contemporary inscriptions saying that various artifacts that were neither gold nor silver were stored in the Parthenon, and Pausanias in the 2nd century CE stating that those identifiable artifacts were kept in what he called the Temple of Athena Polias (1.27.1) while the golden statue (and the Elgin marbles) were features of the big building called the Parthenon (1.24.5-7). He also describes the Erechtheion (1.26.5) as a separate (double) building dedicated to Poseidon and Hephaistos. This is not quite what Mr. Smokehouses implies.

    If the big news is that Pausanias were told different names than were in use 700 years before, well, these things happen, move along, nothing to see here.

    However, if the building currently known as the Erechtheion is better identified as dedicated to Athena Polias (and finding stuff with inventory labels in the building would be a strong hint), some art/religion history books should maybe be revised a little, and maybe the info signs on the site. But it’s not new either, 15 years ago Dr. Alexandra Lesk wrote a huge Ph. D. thesis concluding that the building housed both cults. (This is referenced on Wikipedia, and I updated the dead links). Apposite quote:

    What to call the subject of this study poses a major dilemma. The name by which the marble Ionic Temple on the north side of the Akropolis was generally known in the Classical period is uncertain. The generic and cumbersome label used in the building accounts, “the temple in which the ancient image is,” is unusable for general reference in this study. “Temple of Athena Polias” and “archaios neos” are also unacceptable because of the polemic surrounding this terminology. Similarly, “Erechtheion” cannot be used without major qualification, as there is no consensus on whether the cult of Erechtheus was located within the Ionic temple. Apparently neutral would be the “Ionic Temple”; however, there is another Ionic Temple on the Akropolis, that of Athena Nike. By default, then, the appellation “Erechtheion” is used to refer to the late 5th century marble Ionic temple as a whole because this is the most common name used to refer to the building, and it provides the least distraction to the reader.

    TL;DR: The rest of us don’t need to change the name we use for the Parthenon. It has been the Parthenon for at least 1900 years, never mind if another building had the name for 600 years before that.

  38. Sigh. I’m too easily excited. Thanks for the cold water!

  39. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Please Note: We are temporarily unavailable to users from certain countries while we upgrade our site to implement new methods for data processing as required by applicable laws.

    I got that with the same link, so I guess I’m also in a certain country. There is a way of getting round it, which I only use when I really really want to get to a site that’s unavailable in certain countries. You can find it with a search for Browsec. I find that most of the time it creates as many problems as it solves, and I have it switched off at the moment, but it’s worth trying as a last resort. It tells the site that I’m at a fictitious address, in New Jersey I think.

  40. I guess I’m also in a certain country.

    That’s why Brexit

  41. Stu Clayton says

    …Browsec. I find that most of the time it creates as many problems as it solves,

    What is the current state of play with available “proxy VPNs”, based on the actual experience of y’all here out there ? (No sappy “trust me!” sales pitches, please.) A few years ago I tried one or two, and they were flakey, as Athel reports.

    1. Does their legality vary considerably depending on location of the proxy ? Is address spoofing sometimes used by such a proxy ? That could get me in real collateral trouble, or not ? What else could bring the law down on me ?

    2. It seems to me that such a proxy is a classic man-the-middle. Should I worry about JS injection ?

    Full disclosure: I understand next to nothing about these vulgar low-level matters.

    Also, the German copyright infringement sharks that DM mentions bit me 10 years ago. I had downloaded a photo of Luhmann that I thought was public domain, and put it up on a blogsite I had. 400 euros later I knew that it wasn’t. Thus I am leery of the Law (except when I know what I’m doing).

  42. Stu Clayton says


  43. I have always admired Pausanias’s care in taking down what locals said about the sites he visited. The preservation of his work has ensured that what was known about various Greek sites at the height of Roman imperial power was preserved permanently. However, what is even more remarkable is how old some of the information that he recorded must have been. Famously, Pausanias provided some details about the locations and contents of shaft graves at Mycenae that had been closed for at least a millennium and a half. Not all the details were correct, of course; the graves were incorrectly attributed to the most famous kings of the city, the Atreides—so that Schliemann reported his discovery of the most splendid of the tombs by stating that he had gazed upon the face of Agamemnon.

  44. Stu, I use Express VPN most of the time. It costs more than most VPN s and Is better, in my experience. Mostly l say I’m in London, so I get BBC i player and Channel 4. I.ve used it with Amazon Prime and Netflicks to get different national versions with great success. The Iive people who “chat” with you are very helpful. Every online service nowadays (eg Photoshop) costs about $10 a month and I think that, s about what I pay for Netflix and for Express VPN.

  45. (That’s what happens if I use my cell phone with Google’s handwriting app, which I enjoy, but it can’t handle apostrophes.)

  46. Stu Clayton says

    Crown, thanks for the tip about Express VPN. I expect to pay for something worthwhile.

    By the way, I see a strong resemblance between the modern widespread desire to get something for nothing (no ads, no reselling my stale cookie data, “free VPN”), and the old British upper-class deprecation of “tradespeople” because they were obliged to sell.

    It’s a standard feature of many 19C and early 20C British novels that superior people never pay their tradesman bills on time. Trollope’s superior characters don’t, for example. Mapp was notorious for fighting over the price of every bit of fish – after she had eaten it.

  47. Stu, I forget to say our mutual friend, not Dickens but Nic B. got Express VPN at the same time as I did and unlike most vpns it works fine from Cambodia. So there.

    I thought rather than despising the lower ranks (and not that they didn’t), not paying their bills on time was about earning interest on the money for as long as poss. The lower ranks let them get away with it in the same way that businesses currently allow the use of cards when that’s not directly in their interest. Or something.

    I use a vpn because I want access to material on sites like the BBC’s. It’s typically British bad business sense that it won’t make this available to foreigners (and I know all the reasons) and meanwhile Amazon & Netflix have made a great success of doing exactly that. The country’s going to the dogs at an accelerating rate [p.94]

  48. Stu Clayton says

    But these novel characters don’t have much money. Profligate youths, for example, don’t pay their tailors. They spend their allowances up front on horses and the theater.

    Mapp is not rich either, but just mean. She tries to screw over her tradesmen, justifying it by claiming they’re trying to screw her over.

  49. That’s true, but it’s not confined to the uppers. You find meanness all over (Scrooge & his partner) and these battles occurred even in countries without an aristocracy. Not paying your tailor is such a recurrent theme that you wonder how they would have survived if it hadn’t been for good-hearted & industrious mice (see The Tailor of Gloucester).

  50. John Cowan says

    these battles occurred even in countries without an aristocracy

    They certainly did. Someone I know worked for a few months as a personal assistant for Certified NYC Rich Bitch Sandra Hochman (she’s 83 now, I hope she won’t sue me or anyone for libel, though she’s certainly vindictive enough). Her daughter’s memoir describes her life with the CRB in personal detail, but the rest of this post comes from my friend.

    The CRB never paid for anything, going as far as to buy clothes and shoes, wear them, and then return them dirty to the store for full credit (my friend had to do the physical returning). The same thing happened with Tiffany jewelry (my friend was terrified that she would lose something in the taxi or be robbed on the way).

    On other occasions, the CRB claimed that after dry-cleaning, a stain was still visible on her clothing so that she didn’t have to pay for the cleaning, although it was visible only to her. Or she would claim that a waiter had spilled food on her $700 dress and it was totally ruined (it wasn’t), or that delivered flowers had wilted before they arrived (they hadn’t). She got people to lose their jobs by claiming they had screwed up in any of these ways and more (they hadn’t).

    She even cheated people professionally. She had my friend call a long list of high-end private schools where she “offered her services” in poetry workshops for a “discount price”, which was in fact exorbitant for the time. Examples could be multiplied indefinitely, but no more of that: my friend is still outraged to so much as remember all this from the 1970s.

  51. Stu Clayton says

    She or a minion is economical with the truth as well:

    # Her documentary,[which?] the first and only[citation needed] documentary about the women’s movement, was made in 1972 at the Democratic Convention. #

  52. And now we have a US president with a history of stiffing people who do work for him in similar ways.

  53. Stu Clayton says

    He even tried to make other people pay for a wall he wants.

  54. Goodness, what a boaster (slash, writer of her own laughably unreliable Wikipedia article):

    Sandra Created the Foundation You’re An Artist Too which was an after school program held weekly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was for children for ages 8–12 and it successfully ran for 15 years. Her Foundation received a generous donation from the Uris Brothers Fund in the amount of 300 million dollars [er…wow! That’s a lot]. Because the program was so popular, it received a two-page review in The New York Times.

    Hochman was the highest paid female journalist in America[citation needed]. Her article on The First Lady, Ms. Rosalynn Carter, earned her the highest fee ever paid for an article[citation needed]. She also did cover stories for People Magazine. Her cover story on Ralph Nader sold more than any People Magazine cover story[citation needed].

    Poor old lady.

    I see she worked with Flo Kennedy, who was an amazing woman I knew in the 1980s when she was quite old, but Flo knew everyone good & bad. Very funny, nearly always wearing a cowboy hat she’d lie curled up on her bed or couch (she had a bad back) with the tv on to CNN, surrounded by papers, legal files and books (feminism, politics, ethnic history, plus more esoteric stuff).

  55. Someone should prune that Wikipedia article brutally, but it’s not going to be me.

  56. Stu Clayton says

    The entire second paragraph quoted by Crown would need to be excised, because the [citation needed]s are not forthcoming and are not likely to come forth. We can wait until she croaks.

  57. John Cowan says

    Poor old lady.

    As some famous person (perhaps fictional) of the female persuasion said in different circumstances: Whenever she tells a lie about me, I’m going to tell the truth about her.

    I was at first going to post this without the CRB’s name and sign it “Prudently Anonymous <nobody@nowhere.com>”, but my friend (who saw several drafts) convinced me to send it as it now stands, only keeping their name (which the CRB might just recognize) out of it, just in case.

  58. John Cowan says

    I also thought belatedly of Theophilus North, Thornton Wilder’s semi-autobiographical novel published in 1973 but set in 1926 Newport, a high-end resort in Rhode Island. When his car breaks down there, North sets out to support himself (he has just left his job as a prep-school teacher) by among other things reading aloud to the inhabitants who can no longer read and won’t wear glasses. One of them tries to undercut his price of $150 (about $2100 today) for reading the whole Bible as fast as he can, but North has a counteroffer:

    “May I make a suggestion, ma’am? … I could read the Old Testament in Hebrew. There are no vowels in Hebrew; there are simply what they call ‘breathings’. That would reduce the time by about seven hours. Fourteen dollars less!

    “But he [her father, the target of the reading] wouldn’t understand it, Mr. North!”

    “What’s understanding got to do with it, Mrs. Cowperthwaite? He has already heard it eleven times. Hearing it in Hebrew he would be hearing God’s own words as he dictated them to Moses and the prophets. Moreover I could read the New Testament in Greek. Greek is full of silent digammas and enclitics and prolegomena. Not a word would be lost and my price would be reduced to $140.”

    Needless to say there is no meeting of the minds, despite North’s further offer to read the Sermon on the Mount in Aramaic and his “budget plan” of $130.

    But even though he does get some work eventually, as he says:

    I soon ran up against the well-known truth that the rich never pay — or only occasionally. I sent bills every two weeks [for tennis coaching as well as reading aloud], but even the friendliest employers somehow overlooked them. I drew on my capital and waited […].

    My friend managed to get paid by itemizing everything they had done and the time it took (despite complaints), writing out the CRB’s personal check themselves every work day, and refusing to leave her house until that check was signed.

  59. Whenever she tells a lie about me, I’m going to tell the truth about her.
    The truth being that she’s a liar. Yes.

  60. Stu Clayton says

    Lost in time and space. Sounds like a major alcoholic.

    # She was rude and violent, with appalling personal hygiene, regularly staying on the phone until she wet herself #

    She wouldn’t even pay the Piper.

    How I survived my nightmare upbringing, by Ariel Leve

  61. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    countries without an aristocracy

    My wife thinks (and to some extent I agree) that many things in France are done as if Louis XIV were still in charge. The official absence of an aristocracy doesn’t mean you don’t have to go and see the king in Paris if you need something done in Marseilles. Lower-middle class people can get to be Conservative Prime Minsters in the monarchical UK (Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major (who was born a couple of days before me, I see from Wikipedia)) spring to mind, but such a person has little chance of being President of republican France: you need to have gone to the right Grande École, preferably l’École National d’Administration.

  62. John Cowan says

    My friend has now read Ariel’s memoir and is passing it on to me soon.

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