If you haven’t been keeping up with my conversation with Scott Wolter over on Wolter’s blog, please be sure to check it out. It has been an enlightening experience. So far, Wolter has revealed that up until I corrected him on it, he thought I was an ancient astronaut theorist. He has also announced that his program last week on whether the Chinese built the East Bay Walls near San Francisco wasn’t intended to suggest that the Chinese built the East Bay Walls. He further feels that I have hijacked the web traffic meant for his show through the nefarious plot of providing content related to the topics addressed on his show:
Your mastery of the Internet has created a following for sure, but like a lot of miss-guided [sic] ventures, be careful what you wish for. Your attempts to undermine me personally have only hardened my resolve.
Wolter, after failing to recognize that I was explaining the literal meaning of the roots of the word incredible, also chose to address an issue that I have dutifully avoided:
Is this the best you have to bring; "They are not to be believed?" You sound like priest proselytizing to the faithful. For a guy who has questioned my integrity, allowed idiots on his blog to call me things like a "pseudoscientist," a "fraud" and "racist," and then to "threaten to expose" a 25 year-old lawsuit over a $1,500 agate I was ordered to give back to a guy who then wouldn't take it, you'd think you bring a little better game than this? Is this how you think history is to be decided? By trying to attack my credibility is that how you think you can win?
Wolter has chosen to make this a subject of public interest by misstating the facts of the lawsuit, which, since he is a public figure discussing them in a public forum, he has now freed me to talk about. In fact, he all but requires me to talk about it to explain why Wolter is misrepresenting me as threatening him when I was in fact trying very hard to avoid damaging his reputation as a geologist. I am attaching a copy of the relevant documents at the end of this post, but the long and short of it is that a judge, in the case of Petersen v. Wolter (1989), found that in 1988 Scott Wolter misrepresented a chunk of Brazilian agate worth $32.00 as a piece of Lake Superior agate worth $2,500.00 and used that chunk of rock to obtain from the plaintiff a piece of genuine Lake Superior agate in trade. The judge ruled that as “a known and recognized expert on Lake Superior agates” Wolter “knew, or with the exercise of reasonable care or competence, should have known, that said representations were false, or said representations were made by the defendant [Wolter] to the plaintiff [Petersen] without knowing whether they were true or false.”
The ruling did not, as Wolter states, require the return of the valuable agate, which according to court records Wolter had already sold. It required Wolter to return a second agate, a chunk of less valuable Brazilian slab agate traded along with the Lake Superior agate, and entered a judgment of “the sum of $2,000.00” to compensate Petersen for the Lake Superior agate, according to court records.
I trust you can see why I thought it damaging to a geologist who likes to use court proceedings as the standard of evidence for judging his claims that a court ruled that he misrepresented or was ignorant about a geological specimen, and therefore why I didn’t report on this until Wolter himself chose to talk about the facts of the case, even though, by his own standards, this information is highly relevant. As I have written in the past, I struggled with how to handle this material. However, since Wolter has chosen to discuss selectively parts of the lawsuit to imply that I am seeking to harm him, it is important that this information be available for all to read.
Before we finish, I’d like to point readers to a new book by the Dutch scholar of ancient history Jan N. Bremmer. The volume, Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World, was recently published by De Gruyter, who are giving it away for free. I have not read the entirety of the book yet, but I want to highlight a couple of interesting observations for their relevance to the topics we discuss here. In an appendix on the source for Virgil’s underworld in Book Six of the Aeneid, Bremmer makes the claim that Virgil used passages from 1 Enoch as a template for Aeneas’ passage into Hades. Specifically, he argues that the Sibyl guiding Aeneas through Hades is modeled on the angel guiding Enoch through the heavens, with both sharing the motif of asking questions about various figures encountered. If true, this would imply a much wider distribution of 1 Enoch and its attendant mythology of Fallen Angels across the ancient world, and would also support claims, also by Bremmer, in the book The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Tradition earlier this year, in the opposite direction that cross-fertilization with Hellenistic mythology helped shape Enoch’s vision of the Fallen Angels.
What is beyond doubt, however, is that Virgil used Apollonius of Rhodes’s Argonautica as a model in the Aeneid. The love of Aeneas and Dido is closely modeled on that of Jason and Medea, for example. My book, Jason and the Argonauts through the Ages, argued that the Argonauts’ voyage was originally a descent into the underworld (a katabasis), particularly the ancient conception of the underworld shared across the ancient Near East that it was the nighttime home of the sun. Damien Nelis made a similar case that Virgil understood Apollonius’ version of the Argonautica as a symbolic descent into the underworld and therefore modeled the Golden Bough on the Golden Fleece. However, historically most Classical scholars have rejected this interpretation, for reasons I discuss in my book. It’s good to see that Bremmer has come down on my side of the argument, or something close to it, as he states in explaining how Virgil used elements of the Argonautica:
The expedition of Jason and his Argonauts also was a kind of quest, in which the Golden Fleece and the Golden Bough are clearly comparable. In addition, Colchis was situated at the edge of Greek civilisation so that the journey to it might not have been a katabasis but certainly had something of a Jenseitsfahrt [i.e., an otherworldly journey].
This partial agreement makes me feel a little better about disagreeing with him on the origins of the Golden Fleece.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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