2nd RFD: soc.history.ancient

Joe Bernstein joe at sfbooks.com
Thu Nov 28 04:09:22 EST 1996

                     REQUEST FOR DISCUSSION (RFD)
                unmoderated group soc.history.ancient

CHANGES from previous RFD:

The changes are few and would not ordinarily require a new RFD in their own
right.  However, a combination of the long delay since the 1st RFD, and
difficulties in fulfilling that RFD's commitments, have led to the decision
to issue this 2nd RFD.

Material changes are as follows:

The charter's language has been clarified, a little with regard to maps and
other graphic images, a little with regard to commercial notices, and
substantially with regard to related newsgroups and the kinds of postings
considered better posted in them.

The rationale has been expanded with clarification of how the proponents see
soc.history.ancient as adding to the existing set of relevant newsgroups,
and with a short summary of why A.D. 700 was chosen as the cutoff date.

Both have been supplemented by the addition of references to a World Wide
Web site where some past posts can be found, as well as an e-mail address
for obtaining them.

The real reasons for this RFD, however, are as follows:

First, we had trouble distributing the first RFD to the mailing lists where
scholarly discussion of ancient history primarily takes place on the nets.
As a result, in many cases, the RFD only arrived on a given mailing list
after discussion in news.groups had entirely died out.  Readers of the
mailing lists were not given the opportunity to participate fully.

Second, in post <4uadnk$oc4 at sloth.swcp.com>, we committed ourselves to a
straw poll on the subject of moderation.  Responses both in news postings
and in e-mail to the lead proponent were to be counted.  Unfortunately, the
lead proponent's computer crashed late in the RFD period, with the result
that e-mail responses were lost.  News responses were roughly evenly split;
it's worth noting, again, that people who saw the RFD on the mailing lists
were unlikely to find out about this straw poll thanks to our lateness in
sending the RFD.

Finally, we eventually overshot the 90-day limit on proposals, so even
without these difficulties, this RFD would now be necessary anyway.

We'll try to do better this time.

Perhaps the most contentious topic during the first discussion period was
moderation.  None of the proponents much wants to propose a moderated group
at this time; representative posts on this subject include
<joe-0108960820480001 at stars.pr.mcs.net>, <4ub51u$diq at pulp.ucs.ualberta.ca>
and  <4u7lvg$di3 at sloth.swcp.com>.  However, if the bulk of opinion in this
new discussion favours moderation, we will try to work something out.
Please see post <joe-0308960913120001 at stars.pr.mcs.net> for some remarks
on how a moderated group might work, if this is important to you.  All of
the posts referenced in this RFD can also be obtained at web site
<URL:http://www.tezcat.com/~josephb/past/sha/> or by e-mail from
<joe at sfbooks.com> or <mmartin at basis.com>.  (The latter are not automatic
servers!)  To cast a vote in favour of or against moderation without
posting publicly, please e-mail <joe at sfbooks.com>.

Newsgroup line:
soc.history.ancient     Ancient history (up to AD 700).

This is a formal Request For Discussion (RFD) for the creation of a
world-wide unmoderated Usenet newsgroup soc.history.ancient.  This is
not a Call for Votes (CFV); you cannot vote at this time.  Procedural
details are below.

RATIONALE: soc.history.ancient

Ancient history already is a topic of much interest on Usenet, where it
is discussed in multiple newsgroups, and many mailing lists are also
devoted to it. However, Usenet discussion is often fragmented, and/or
off-topic in the groups where it occurs. This proposal seeks to create
an intuitively obvious central place for such discussion.

Existing Usenet newsgroups where ancient history is discussed but is off-
topic include sci.archaeology and its offshoots; soc.history.medieval; and
humanities.classics.  Ancient history is at best marginal in sci.archaeology
the extent that it concerns questions subject to archaeological investigation.
Recent threads in these groups which are off-topic of marginally so include
ones about the historicity of Jesus, Josephus' account of Masada, the alleged
salting of Carthage, Roman legions, Roman cities, Celts and Gypsies, and
Celtic knowledge (from the classical period).

In soc.history.medieval, where much discussion occurs, ancient history
is strictly off-topic; the charter defines the group's scope as beginning
at approximately AD 500.  Yet threads with enormous activity concerning
ancient Christianity, Rome, and Celts have been common in the group since
its incepion.

Sci.classics (now becoming humanities.classics) is the most problematic
case.  The newsgroup's traditions specifically include the history of
the Greco-Roman world and neighbouring regions as far as India.  All the
same, sci.classics is not an intuitively obvious place to look for such
topics and in practice sci.classics has been dominated by linguistic/literary
discussions which do not fully address ancient historical interests.  Short
historical questions are usually answered but discussion rarely results.

Soc.history.ancient is likely to be the first place people stop who are
interested in the ancient world.  The group's charter and FAQ will help
to direct them to more appropriate newsgroups where these exist.
Soc.history.ancient should help, for example, improve the visibility of

During the first RFD discussion, questions were raised about the choice
of A.D. 700 as a cutoff date. From <joe-3107960950210001 at stars.pr.mcs.net>,
here's an explanation of this admittedly rather late endpoint for
"ancient history":

>It's the low point of Latin and Greek classical culture.  It's
>shortly after the Muslim explosion and thus enables discussion
>of (for example) Byzantium up to the Muslim conquest of Syria
>and Egypt, including those conquests.  It's therefore also just
>after the Muslim conquest of the Sasanids.  It's shortly after
>the reign of Harsha in India, and it's just after the
>reunification of China by the Sui.  Every major civilisation of
>the Old World, in other words, has at least  a significant (if
>not crucial) turning point somewhere within a century of AD 700.
>AD 300 would've worked roughly as well (with a different set of
>turning points), but late antiquity doesn't really have a good
>home for discussion elsewhere on Usenet so we went with the
>later date.

For a more detailed explanation, please see post
<joe-1008961104070001 at stars.pr.mcs.net>, available at the
above-mentioned sites.

CHARTER: soc.history.ancient

This is a news group for discussion of ancient historical cultures existing
up to circa AD 700.

Appropriate types of articles include discussions of ancient cultures,
FAQs, booklists, personal insight essays, announcements of new publications
and research, analyses of historical patterns (i.e., styles of warfare,
travel, agriculture, etc.), and reviews of current research and television
series or specials.  Short, non-hype, commercial announcements of books,
seminars, etc. are also acceptable, but no more than once per month per

Inappropriate types of articles include commercial advertisements posted
more frequently than once per month, unrelated to ancient history, or
including excessive length of hype; non-historical or pseudo-historical
discussions (what if, alternate history, fantasy cultures, etc.); topics
outside the date range of the news group; binary files (excluding PGP and
similar short signatures); and articles focusing on legends (except insofar
as they affected history), alternative history, and unverifiable events.

Soc.history.ancient is intended to be the first, but not the only, resource
on Usenet for the reader interested in ancient history.  The newsgroup's
focus is specifically on history, preferably as it can be known from texts.
The texts in and of themselves, as literary or linguistic topics, or
non-textual remains, are secondary in interest on this newsgroup, and
there are other newsgroups where postings on these topics will often find
more informed and interested audiences.

Articles on topics for which textual evidence is scant or non-existant should
be posted to sci.archaeology.moderated or sci.archaeology.  While discussions
of the Maya, the only known American culture with surviving texts from our
period, are welcome, posters should be aware that sci.archaeology.mesoamerican
is more likely to be read by informed specialists in that subject. And for
postings on topics *primarily about* Old World texts and/or languages of the
texts themselves, humanities.classics, humanities.language.sanskrit, or
sci.lang will be a better place to go.

There is no newsgroup for which discussion of ancient art is especially
on-topic.  Posters are asked to judge which group is most likely to be
interested or informed on the topic of a post discussing the visual or other
non-literary arts, and to choose the appropriate newsgroup, perhaps posting
pointers in one or more other group.  Pointers to binaries posted in
alt.binaries.pictures.misc or available by e-mail are encouraged.

This charter will be included in the newsgroup's first FAQ.  Thereafter,
it will be changed only by formal RFD or CFV, or in accordance with the
renaming or creation of newsgroups relevant to ancient history (such as
a binaries group for maps, or an Egyptology group, for example).

This group will be unmoderated, allowing anyone with the proper access to
create or participate in message discussions.



This is a request for discussion, not a call for votes.  In this phase of the
process, any potential problems with the proposed newsgroups should be raised
and resolved.  The discussion period will continue for a minimum of 21 days
(starting from when the first RFD for this proposal is posted to
news.announce.newgroups), after which a Call For Votes (CFV) may be posted
by a neutral vote taker if the discussion warrants it.  Please do not attempt
to vote until this happens.

All discussion of this proposal should be posted to news.groups.

This RFD attempts to comply fully with the Usenet newsgroup creation
guidelines outlined in "How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup" and "How to
Format and Submit a New Group Proposal".  Please refer to these documents
(available in news.announce.newgroups) if you have any questions about
the process.


This RFD has been posted to the following newsgroups:

  news.announce.newgroups, news.groups
  humanities.classics, sci.archaeology
  sci.archaeology.moderated, sci.classics
  soc.history, soc.history.medieval
  soc.history.moderated, soc.history.war.misc

This RFD has been posted to the following mailing lists:

  aegeanet at acpub.duke.edu, anahita at lsv.uky.edu
  ane at oi.uchicago.edu, ancien-l at ulkyvm.louisville.edu
  arch-l at tamvm1.tamu.edu, aztlan at ulkyvm.louisville.edu
  classics at u.washington.edu, eaan at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
  earlyscience-l at listserv.vt.edu, ethnohis at nic.surfnet.nl
  h-africa at msu.edu, h-asia at msu.edu
  h-world at msu.edu, history at ukanvm.cc.ukans.edu
  histonwr at ubvm.cc.buffalo.edu, indology at liverpool.ac.uk
  world-l at ubvm.cc.buffalo.edu

Proponent:  First Michael Martinez <mmartin at basis.com>
Proponent:  Second Joe Bernstein <joe at sfbooks.com>
Proponent:  Third Stephan Schulz <schulz at informatik.tu-muenchen.de>
Proponent:  Fourth Patrick Conway <cconway at gpu.srv.ualberta.ca>

Joe Bernstein, writer, bank clerk, and bookstore worker <joe at sfbooks.com>
speaking for myself alone           <http://www.tezcat.com/~josephb/>
but...  co-proponent for soc.history.ancient, now under
discussion in news.groups

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