Monday, January 28, 2013

Artemis, The Huntress

click photo to enlarge
"All right... all right... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order... what have the Romans done for us?"
from "Monty Python's Life of Brian" (1979)

The Romans have an undeserved reputation for innovation. It's true that they had very good engineering, and that their skills in acquiring, administering and sustaining an empire were formidable. However, as far as actual inventions go their prowess has been greatly exaggerated. The fact is their real skills lay in creative borrowing: taking the inventions of other cultures and improving them. The Romans were more Bill Gates than Alexander Graham Bell.

A single example can serve to exemplify the failings of the Romans when it comes to inventions - or the absence of them. Throughout their period of ascendancy horse power was crucial to the Romans, yet they continued with the same inefficient harness that was used in the Bronze Age. In the second century B.C. the Chinese had horses pulling against a breast strap when they were used with a cart. This allowed them to breath more easily and pull heavier loads. A century later the Chinese had discovered the increased benefits of the collar harness, a device unknown in Europe until many hundreds of years after the Roman empire had collapsed.
On a recent visit to Much Marcle in Herefordshire to attend a wedding I was photographing in the snow-covered garden of Hellens Manor, the ancient house where the ceremony and subsequent festivities were to take place. The frozen pond on the south-facing terrace featured a statue of a female hunter. The moss and lichen encrusted figure looked like a good subject for a photograph or two, and so I took some shots showing details and context. This particular view of the garden was taken the day before the main image. It shows the sculpted figure with a snow scarf and cap which had disappeared twenty four hours later. When I came to give a title to today's photograph I had to stop and think whether the subject was Greek or Roman. If Greek, then the statue depicted Artemis, if Roman then it was Diana. When it came to religion the Romans inherited some Greek gods during their early history, came up with some of their own later on, and sought to identify some of these with Greek forerunners due to their fascination with the earlier civilisation. All of which has sown some confusion in the minds of later generations. The sculpture could be Diana, but she looks Greek to me. All of which leads me to think that another thing the Romans did for us was to add a layer of confusion to their mythology that tripped up this photographer when he was a schoolboy, and sometimes puzzles him still.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 105mm
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On