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Ediacara-type fossils are found in a diverse array of preservational styles, implying that multiple taphonomic mechanisms might have been responsible for their preservational expression. For many Ediacara fossils, the “death mask” model has been invoked as the primary taphonomic pathway. The key to this preservational regime is the replication or sealing of sediments around the degrading organisms by microbially induced precipitation of authigenic pyrite, leading toward fossil preservation along bedding planes. Nama-style preservation, on the other hand, captures Ediacaran organisms as molds and three-dimensional casts within coarse-grained mass flow beds, and has been previously regarded as showing little or no evidence of a microbial preservational influence. To further understand these two seemingly distinct taphonomic pathways, we investigated the three-dimensionally preserved Ediacaran fossil Pteridinium simplex from mass flow deposits of the upper Kliphoek Member, Dabis Formation, Kuibis Subgroup, southern Namibia. Our analysis, using a combination of petrographic and micro-analytical methods, shows that Pteridinium simplex vanes are replicated with minor pyrite, but are most often represented by open voids that can be filled with secondary carbonate material; clay minerals are also found in association with the vanes, but their origin remains unresolved. The scarcity of pyrite and the development of voids are likely related to oxidative weathering and it is possible that microbial activities and authigenic pyrite may have contributed to the preservation of Pteridinium simplex; however, any microbes growing on P. simplex vanes within mass flow deposits were unlikely to have formed thick mats as envisioned in the death mask model. Differential weathering of replicating minerals and precipitation of secondary minerals greatly facilitate fossil collection and morphological characterization by allowing Pteridinium simplex vanes to be parted from the massive hosting sandstone.
Vitamin D and folate are associated with decreased colorectal cancer risk and their association with colorectal cancer prognosis is under investigation. We assessed the levels of plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D3), folate and vitamin B12 in an international pilot study in order to determine variability of these biomarkers based on geographical location. Plasma 25(OH)D3, folate and vitamin B12 concentrations were measured in 149 invasive, newly diagnosed colorectal cancer cases from Heidelberg (Germany), Seattle (WA, USA), and Tampa (FL, USA) and in ninety-one age- and sex-matched controls. Their associations with potential predictors were assessed using multivariate linear regression analyses. Plasma 25(OH)D3, folate and vitamin B12 concentrations differed by location. Other predictors were season for 25(OH)D3 and tumour stage (vitamin B12). Season-corrected average 25(OH)D3 concentrations were higher in Heidelberg (31·7 ng/ml; range 11·0–83·0 ng/ml) than in Seattle (23·3 ng/ml; range 4·0–80·0 ng/ml) and Tampa (21·1 ng/ml; range 4·6–51·6 ng/ml). In Heidelberg, a strong seasonal variation was observed. Folate (11·1 ng/ml) and vitamin B12 (395 pg/ml) concentrations in Heidelberg were lower than those in Seattle (25·3 ng/ml and 740 pg/ml, respectively) and Tampa (23·8 ng/ml and 522 pg/ml, respectively). Differences in plasma 25(OH)D3 and folate concentrations between Heidelberg and the US sites were observed, probably reflecting variation in outdoor activities and sun-avoidance behaviour during summer as well as in folic acid fortification and supplement use. Intra-site differences at each study location were greater than between-location variability, suggesting that individual health behaviours play a significant role. Nevertheless, the intra-site differences we observed may be due to chance because of the limited sample size. Our pilot study illustrates the value of an international cohort in studying colorectal cancer prognosis to discern geographical differences in a broad range of exposures.
Background: Differences in the level of cognitive compromise between individuals following brain injury are thought to arise from underlying differences in cognitive reserve. The level of cognitive reserve attained by an individual is influenced by both genetic and life experience factors such as educational attainment and occupational history. The Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project (THBP) is a world-first prospective study examining the capacity of university-level education to enhance cognitive reserve in older adults and subsequently reduce age-related cognitive decline and risk for neurodegenerative disease.
Methods: Up to 1,000 adults aged 50–79 years at the time of entry into the study will be recruited to participate in the THBP. All participants will be healthy and free of significant medical, psychological, or psychiatric illness. Of the participant sample, 90% will undertake a minimum of 12 months part-time university-level study as an intervention. The remaining 10% will act as a control reference group. Participants will complete an annual comprehensive assessment of neuropsychological function, medical health, socialization, and personal well-being. Premorbid estimates of past cognitive, education, occupational, and physical function will be used to account for the mediating influence of prior life experience on outcomes. Potential contributing genetic factors will also be explored.
Results: Participant results will be assessed annually. Participants displaying evidence of dementia on the comprehensive neuropsychological assessment will be referred to an independent psycho-geriatrician for screening and diagnosis.
Conclusions: The THBP commenced in 2011 and is expected to run for 10–20 years duration. To date, a total of 383 participants have been recruited into the THBP.
The basic purpose of this chapter is to revive the idea first expressed in modern times by the eighteenth-century English classical scholar Samuel Musgrave, that we should perhaps see the historical figure of Alcibiades underlying Oedipus in Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus. Musgrave (who, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “had few superiors” as a student of Greek) was writing in the 1770s, at a time when classical scholarship had not yet become Altertumswissenschaft. If, however, we take Dodds' dictum that “what is not mentioned in the play does not exist” at face value, we could easily observe that Alcibiades is not mentioned by name in Oedipus Tyrannus and stop at this point. There is nevertheless considerable merit in Musgrave's insight as we shall see, and although he did not spell out the reasons for his belief, a case can be made for Alcibiades underlying Oedipus in both Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus at Colonus.
The most famous attribute of Oedipus is, in Tom Lehrer's words, that he “loved his mother”: perhaps overmuch, by most standards ancient or modern. Now while “motherlover”, or a synonym, might be a common enough epithet in some circles, the actual phenomenon of sexual relations between a mother and a son is unusual. But without – yet at least – fully identifying Alcibiades with Oedipus it is useful to note that according to his contemporary Antisthenes it was said that Alcibiades was so debauched that “he lay with his mother, his sister and his daughter” (Antisth. 29a Caizzi ap. Ath. 5.220a).
Certain passages in Thucydides have caused a good deal of scholarly embarrassment. To the literal-minded they are distracting excrescences that should not be there. The passages in question are the account of Harmodius and Aristogeiton (6.53.3–59), the discussion of the origins of the Cylonian revolt and the subsequent Alcmaeonid curse (1.126.2–12), the end of Pausanias (1.128–135.1) and the fate of Themistocles (1.135.2–138). There is no shortage of critics who have used the terms “digression” or “excursus” to describe these passages. It will be argued here and in Chapter 11 that they are, instead, central to Thucydides' narrative.
In the case of the Harmodius and Aristogeiton passage that comes in the middle of Thucydides' account of Alcibiades' summons from Catana, his escape from his escort, and his exile in the Peloponnese (6.53.1–2, 60–61), “scholars have been puzzled by Thucydides' inclusion of a lengthy and somewhat loosely connected digression in an otherwise tightly-knit narrative that shuns extraneous material”, and the chapters in question have either been held to “provide an historical model for a crucial issue” on which the Peloponnesian War would turn, or else to have nothing whatever to do with the events of 415. On the latter view, Thucydides simply succumbed “to the temptation before which all historians and commentators are by their very nature weak, the temptation to correct historical error wherever they find it, regardless of its relevance to their immediate purpose”.
Mention was made above (p. vii) to the role of pity and fear in Athenian tragedy. There can have been few plays in which such notions were engendered to a greater extent than in Sophocles' Ajax. But before we can indulge in any micro-political analysis of the play, we need to know when it was first performed.
Today, “general opinion among scholars … favours a date in the later 440's” for Ajax. This assertion is becoming gradually more muted – “all we can say in the present state of the evidence is that nothing contradicts a date in the 440s, but that certainty is impossible”, or “the dating of Sophocles' play to the early 440s – if correct” – but it is the brave critic who disregards the consensus that Ajax is relatively early and who rejects the scholarship that has been devoted to a study of supposed Sophoclean stylistic development. The study of style, it should be said, is not always helpful; indeed it can be positively misleading. That it plays such a prominent role at all is due to misplaced respect for J. J. Winckelmann, concerning whose contribution to science Wilamowitz unwittingly gave the game away in stating:
In producing a history of style such as no scholar had ever dreamed of in the domain of either poetry or prose, Winckelmann set an example which all succeeding ages should look up to with admiration. It is the source of the sap that has made almost every branch of our science grow and put forth leaves.
Even when specific attention was not drawn to the fact, constant use has been made throughout this book of the “wigwam argument”, according to which “each pole would fall down by itself, but together the poles stand up, by leaning on each other; they point roughly in the same direction and circumscribe ‘truth’”. Another guiding principle has been to follow W. S. Heckscher's injunction to disregard what he called “the academic frontier police” and to employ any fact, no matter how small or apparently insignificant, in reconstructing the intellectual framework within which artists and writers of the past may have worked. The working hypothesis, about the essentially Alcibiadean nature of many of the surviving plays of Sophocles seems to hold good, and to be supported by Euripides' even subtler approach, as well as by the ingenious allusions that Thucydides and Plato make to Athens' most notorious son.
Many problems with which criticism has been beset have vanished: whether the problems arising from Antigone's quirky speech at Antigone 904–20 to which Goethe took exception, or the problematic First Stasimon in the same play (332–75); the apparent inconsistencies in the plotting of Oedipus Tyrannus that so disturbed Voltaire and misled Freud's acolytes; the problem of Ajax's madness and mutability, or his impiety and untruthfulness; the problem of Odysseus' needless advertisement of his own amorality in Philoctetes, or that of Philoctetes' puzzling submission to Heracles' will; the problem of Oedipus' venomous rejection of his son Polyneices, or the reason for the Eleusinian allusions in Oedipus at Colonus, to name but a few.
The dominant personality in Plato's Gorgias is Callicles, the man who argues forcefully that “might is right”. It is also widely believed that the issues involved have been exhaustively analysed by Dodds in his edition and commentary on the Gorgias, and that little more need be said. There remains, however, much disagreement as to quite who Callicles is, or whom he represents. Callicles is so carefully delineated that it is difficult to believe that he is wholly fictitious (and if he were, he would be the only such example in the whole of Plato). He is said to come from the deme of Acharnae (495d), and to be the erastes of the known individual Demus (481d). The names of his acquaintances (487c) suggest that he belongs to the Athenian aristocracy, the younger members of which came under the influence of the sophists in the 420s. And yet there are problems. Unusually, his patronymic is not given, and perhaps surprisingly for such a forthright individual, Callicles is not heard of in Athenian politics outside the Gorgias.
It has been suggested that Callicles died young, “before he had time to make his mark on history”. Many have been tempted to see Callicles as a mask for some historical individual, but some suggestions are less likely than others. Alcibiades would appear at first sight to have a strong case, but there is an apparently insuperable obstacle in that Plato draws a careful distinction between him and Callicles (481c–d).
There is no end to the roll call of scholars who have dismissed the cluster of stories in Thucydides dealing with Cylon, Pausanias and Themistocles (1.126.2–138) – as well as the account of Harmodius and Aristogeiton discussed in Chapter 10 – as “digressions” or “excursuses”. A case can, however, be made for their being necessary parts of the narrative; by his careful choice of language, by means of “emphasis” (“the process of digging out some lurking meaning from something said”; Quint. Inst. 9.2.64), Thucydides succeeds in saying rather more about Alcibiades than might otherwise be possible. The passages were carefully composed in order to enrich the surrounding narrative.
As we have already seen, Thucydides could in any case devote pages to Alcibiadean policy without even mentioning him by name, whether it was his involvement in the campaign against Melos and the cruel treatment of the inhabitants, or the negotiations between the Athenians and the inhabitants of Segesta a year later; or, indeed, in the passage on Harmodius and Aristogeiton, which is redolent of an Alcibiades who lies hidden beneath the text. It has recently been said that “Thucydides' most trenchant statements about the nature of Athenian politics and the fate of Athens were made with Alcibiades clearly in mind”; the “digressions” are where – paradoxically – he is most outspoken in this respect.
The case to be made in this book is that Sophocles (and Euripides) took traditional legends and employed them to make highly pertinent observations on contemporary military and political events. That this sort of investigation is supposed to be off-limits only adds to the interest of the exercise. For more than a hundred years now, most students of Sophocles, for example, have followed unquestioningly the dictum of the highly respected Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848–1931) that “no Sophoclean tragedy has any immediate connection with a contemporary event”. Students of Euripides have only gingerly followed Günther Zuntz in admitting that some at least of Euripides' plays might be political. There has been, it is true, a vogue more recently for ascribing definitive political messages to the tragic poets. This development has been criticized, in some respects rightly, for it has led to a proliferation of disparate political interpretations, most of which are inevitably off-target. Many fail because they speak in generalities about macro-political themes: for example, the endorsement of aristocratic paternalism and imperial hegemony, competing models of elite leadership or “a [strong] contemporary application to the problems of the Athenian polis”. But both they and their critics go astray in overlooking – or rejecting – the possibility that the themes might be micro-political and be concerned with the role played in politics by specific individuals.
Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus seems to fall into the same category as the other plays discussed in this book. In the spirit of Wilamowitz, Karl Reinhardt thought that it is “a play … which is careful to avoid all political allusions”, but Lowell Edmunds' view that “the tragedy provides various models of acceptance and reconciliation pertinent to Athens in the aftermath of the revolution of the Four Hundred” in 411 bce is probably closer to the truth. Sophocles died in 406/5 having recently completed the text of Oedipus at Colonus. The play was only actually performed in 401. Oedipus again would appear to “come forward” as Alcibiades, an Alcibiades who had left Athens for the second time in the autumn of 407, never in fact to return. By the time of the likely composition of Oedipus at Colonus he had taken refuge in one of the fastnesses in the Thracian Chersonnese that he had thoughtfully prepared against such an eventuality. Deprived once again of his property in Attica, in the spring of 406 he was in as bad a position as he had been in the autumn of 415.
Sophocles had been a proboulos in 412/11, one of a board of ten appointed from men who were over the age of forty to stabilize the government of Athens in troublesome times. The high age qualification for this office and the lack of any time limit on tenure have been taken to be oligarchical features.
There is rather more to be said about Critias, whom we met in Chapter 7 as an individual Sophocles thought might, under the right circumstances, be the saviour that Athens needed in troubled times. If the positive side of his character embodied in the Theseus of Oedipus at Colonus (as opposed to the negative aspects with which the manipulative and harsh Creon is imbued) were to come to the fore, and if Alcibiades were to accept his leadership, Athens might yet survive. There is a note of muted optimism in Oedipus at Colonus that was to prove to have been misplaced. For Critias gained notoriety as the lawmaker of the Thirty Tyrants, who ruled Athens with a bloody hand after the city's defeat by the Spartans in 405 bce. The sources relating to Critias are few in number by comparison with those that tell us about Alcibiades. This is in large part owing to the fact that Critias' excesses towards the end of his life contributed to the deliberate excision of his actions from Athenian folk memory, formally enacted in the oaths “not to remember evils in the future” (μὴ μνησικακήσειν; Xen. Hell. 2.4.43) once democracy was restored after the fall of the tyrants in 402 bce. This may have contributed to Plato's concealment of Critias' identity behind the figure of Polus in the Gorgias, discussed in Chapter 12.