Classics Teachers and the HistoryMakers: Part 2

As a follow up to an earlier post (here), I wanted to share a couple more stories about Classics teachers. These posts contain only a few of the many and great examples of the references to Classics teachers in the HistoryMakers archive.

Chemist and academic administrator Grant Venerable tells about a Latin teacher who pushed her students to succeed:

“There aren’t enough teachers in the school who do that, who recognize the potential that’s there, and they pull it out… The Latin teacher, it was the same thing.  She had students who were getting Cs in their other classes, and they’d get As from her, because she sat on them and made them love Latin.”


Grant Venerable ©TheHistoryMakers


Jeannette Brown, an organic chemist and author of African American Women Chemists (Oxford, 2011), tells her Greek and Latin teacher’s advice to her as an African American woman:

“She taught, she taught classics, Greek and Latin.  And she was strict.  And I just thought she hated me, except when I got, when I got–when I graduated, she gave me a hug, and later on I went back as an alum… I still remember what she looked like because she’d sit, you know, she was straight, and she was strict.  And she was always well dressed because, you know, as ‘the’ African American teacher in the school, she had to hold up the reputation of African American teachers and ‘Jeannette Brown, Ms. Brown, you will also–‘ She didn’t say it that way, but that’s what was her intent.  And I, you know, I’d be the best I can be.”


Jeannette Brown ©TheHistoryMakers

Why Start “In Medias Res?” Artifice or Lies…

Horace, Ars Poetica 148-149

“He always rushes to the action and steals
His audience to the story as if it is already known…”

semper ad eventum festinat et in medias res
non secus ac notas auditorem rapit

Dio Chrysostom, Oration 11.25-26

“For once he tried to describe the war which happened between the Achaians and Greeks, he did not begin from the beginning, but from wherever he chanced. This is what nearly all liars do, as they embellish and re-weave their tales, never wishing to speak in the order of events. For, they are less than clear in this way; otherwise, they would be shown false by the tale itself. This can be seen happening now in the courts of law and other places where men lie with skill. But people who wish to show what has happened, as each thing occurred, report in this way: first thing first, second thing second and everything else in order. This is one explanation for why Homer does not begin his poem naturally; another is that he wished to obscure the beginning and the end the most and to obtain the opposite belief about these things. This is why he does not dare to narrate the beginning and the end clearly, nor does he promise to say anything about them. If he does mention them at all it is in passing and brief and it his clear he is mixing it all up. For he does not dare nor was he able to address these things readily. This is what happens with liars especially, when someone is saying many different things about a matter and going on about them, because they want to hide some part of it the most, they don’t speak in an organized way or appeal to their audience by ordering things in the same place but where they are most deceptive. This is because they are ashamed to lie and hesitate to proceed, especially when it is about something serious. For this reason, liars do not speak in a loud voice when they come to this moment. Some people stutter and speak unclearly; others act as if they don’t know the truth but heard this from others. Whoever speaks something true does it fearing nothing. Nor then has Homer spoken about the abduction of Helen or even about the sack of the city simply or in a free manner. Instead, as I was saying, even though he was so very bold, he stumbled and swooned because he knew he was speaking the opposite to the truth and was lying about the very substance of his affair.”

Ἐπιχειρήσας γὰρ τὸν πόλεμον εἰπεῖν τὸν γενόμενον τοῖς Ἀχαιοῖς πρὸς τοὺς Τρῶας, οὐκ εὐθὺς ἤρξατο ἀπὸ τῆς ἀρχῆς, ἀλλ᾿ ὅθεν ἔτυχεν· ὃ ποιοῦσι πάντες οἱ ψευδόμενοι σχεδόν, ἐμπλέκοντες καὶ περιπλέκοντες καὶ οὐθὲν βουλόμενοι λέγειν ἐφεξῆς· ἧττον γὰρ κατάδηλοί εἰσιν· εἰ δὲ μή, ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ τοῦ πράγματος ἐξελέγχονται. τοῦτο δὲ ἰδεῖν ἔστι καὶ ἐν τοῖς δικαστηρίοις καὶ ἐν ἄλλοις γιγνόμενον οἳ μετὰ τέχνης ψεύδονται. οἱ δὲ βουλόμενοι τὰ γενόμενα ἐπιδεῖξαι, ὡς ξυνέβη ἕκαστον, οὕτως ἀπαγγέλλουσι, τὸ πρῶτον πρῶτον καὶ τὸ δεύτερον δεύτερον καὶ τἄλλα ἐφεξῆς ὁμοίως. ἓν μὲν τοῦτο αἴτιον τοῦ μὴ κατὰ φύσιν ἄρξασθαι τῆς ποιήσεως· ἕτερον δέ, ὅτι τὴν ἀρχὴν αὐτῆς καὶ τὸ τέλος μάλιστα ἐπεβούλευσεν ἀφανίσαι καὶ ποιῆσαι τὴν ἐναντίαν δόξαν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν. ὅθεν οὔτε τὴν ἀρχὴν οὔτε τὸ τέλος ἐτόλμησεν εἰπεῖν ἐκ τοῦ εὐθέος, οὐδὲ ὑπέσχετο ὑπὲρ τούτων οὐδὲν ἐρεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ εἴ που καὶ μέμνηται, παρέργως καὶ βραχέως, καὶ δῆλός ἐστιν ἐπιταράττων· οὐ γὰρ ἐθάρρει πρὸς αὐτὰ οὐδὲ ἐδύνατο ἐρεῖν ἑτοίμως. συμβαίνει δὲ καὶ τοῦτο τοῖς ψευδομένοις ὡς τὸ πολύ γε, ἄλλα μέν τινα λέγειν τοῦ πράγματος καὶ διατρίβειν ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς, ὃ δ᾿ ἂν1 μάλιστα κρύψαι θέλωσιν, οὐ προτιθέμενοι λέγουσιν οὐδὲ προσέχοντι τῷ ἀκροατῇ, οὐδ᾿ ἐν τῇ αὑτοῦ2 χώρᾳ τιθέντες, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς ἂν λάθοι μάλιστα, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ὅτι αἰσχύνεσθαι ποιεῖ τὸ ψεῦδος καὶ ἀποκνεῖν προσιέναι πρὸς αὑτό, ἄλλως τε ὅταν ᾖ περὶ τῶν μεγίστων. ὅθεν οὐδὲ τῇ φωνῇ μέγα λέγουσιν οἱ ψευδόμενοι ὅταν ἐπὶ τοῦτο ἔλθωσιν· οἱ δέ τινες αὐτῶν βατταρίζουσι καὶ ἀσαφῶς λέγουσιν· οἱ δὲ οὐχ ὡς αὐτοί τι εἰδότες, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς ἑτέρων ἀκούσαντες. ὃς δ᾿ ἂν ἀληθὲς λέγῃ τι, θαρρῶν καὶ οὐδὲν ὑποστελλόμενος λέγει. οὔτε οὖν τὰ περὶ τὴν ἁρπαγὴν τῆς Ἑλένης Ὅμηρος εἴρηκεν ἐκ τοῦ εὐθέος οὐδὲ παρρησίαν ἄγων ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς οὔτε περὶ τῆς ἁλώσεως τῆς πόλεως. καίτοι γάρ, ὡς ἔφην, ἀνδρειότατος ὢν ὑποκατεκλίνετο καὶ ἡττᾶτο ὅτι ᾔδει τἀναντία λέγων τοῖς οὖσι καὶ τὸ κεφάλαιον αὐτὸ τοῦ πράγματος ψευδόμενος.


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Cicero’s Shaky Relation to the Facts

Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.24:

“Should I believe that when he said ‘Liber and nurturing Ceres’ for ‘the sun and moon’, he did not do it in imitation of another poet after hearing it without understanding why it was thus expressed? Unless perhaps we would like even our poets to become philosophers, just as the Greeks always make such a big deal of themselves; Cicero himself, who was no less ardent a student of philosophy than of oratory, tended when speaking of the nature of the gods, or fate, or about divination, to reduce the glory which he had puffed up with his rhetoric by his ill-founded relation of facts. “

An ego credam, quod ille, cum diceret: Liber et alma Ceres pro sole ac luna, non hoc in alterius poetae imitationem posuit, ita dici audiens, cur tamen diceretur ignorans? Nisi forte, ut Graeci omnia sua in inmensum tollunt, nos quoque etiam poetas nostros volumus philosophari: cum ipse Tullius, qui non minus professus est philosophandi studium quam loquendi, quotiens aut de natura deorum aut de fato aut de divinatione disputat, gloriam quam oratione conflavit incondita rerum relatione minuat.

Homer and the Language of the Gods

Dio Chrysostom, Oration 11. 22

“To these claims, [Homer] has added nearly a capstone: for, in order that we might be uncertain how he came to understand the gods, he implies that he apparently knows the language of the gods, and that it is not the same as ours: they do not use the same words we do for every individual things. He indicates this, for example, for some bird, whom he claims the gods call chalkis while men call it kumindis. The same difference applies to a place in front of the city which men call the Bateia but gods call the Grave of Murinê. In telling us about the river, he says the gods don’t call it Skamandros but instead Xanthus, as he himself has already dubbed it in his verses, as if it were not only possible for him to mix the various dialects of the Greeks, now using Aiolic, now Doric, then Ionic, but he can also use the divine language too!

I’ve said these things as I have not as an accusation, but because Homer was the boldest of all humans in his lies and dared nothing less nor swore less by his lying than in speaking the truth. In this light nothing of what have examined seems incredible or untrustworthy; instead they are small and human lies in comparison to massive, divine ones.”


τούτοις δὲ ἐπέθηκε τὸν κολοφῶνα σχεδόν· ἵνα γὰρ μὴ ἀπορῶμεν ὅπως ξυνίει τῶν θεῶν, οὕτως διαλέγεται ἡμῖν σχεδὸν ὡς ἔμπειρος τῆς τῶν θεῶν γλώττης, καὶ ὅτι οὐχ ἡ αὐτή ἐστι τῇ ἡμετέρᾳ οὐδὲ τὰ αὐτὰ ὀνόματα ἐφ᾿ ἑκάστῳ λέγουσιν ἅπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς. ἐνδείκνυται δὲ ταῦτα ἐπὶ ὀρνέου τινός, ὅ φησι τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς χαλκίδα καλεῖν, τοὺς δὲ ἀνθρώπους κύμινδιν, καὶ ἐπὶ τόπου τινὸς πρὸς τῆς πόλεως, ὃν τοὺς μὲν ἀνθρώπους Βατίειαν ὀνομάζειν, τοὺς δὲ θεοὺς Σῆμα Μυρίνης. περὶ δὲ τοῦ ποταμοῦ φράσας ἡμῖν ὅτι οὐ Σκάμανδρος, ἀλλὰ Ξάνθος λέγοιτο παρὰ τοῖς θεοῖς, αὐτὸς οὕτως ἤδη ἐν τοῖς ἔπεσιν ὀνομάζει, ὡς οὐ μόνον ἐξὸν αὐτῷ τὰς ἄλλας γλώττας μιγνύειν τὰς τῶν Ἑλλήνων, καὶ ποτὲ μὲν αἰολίζειν, ποτὲ δὲ δωρίζειν, ποτὲ δὲ ἰάζειν, ἀλλὰ καὶ διαστὶ διαλέγεσθαι. ταῦτα δέ μοι εἴρηται, ὥσπερ δὴ ἔφην, οὐ κατηγορίας ἕνεκεν, ἀλλ᾿ ὅτι ἀνδρειότατος ἀνθρώπων ἦν πρὸς τὸ ψεῦδος Ὅμηρος καὶ οὐθὲν ἧττον ἐθάρρει καὶ ἐσεμνύνετο ἐπὶ τῷ ψεύδεσθαι ἢ τῷ τἀληθῆ λέγειν. οὕτω γὰρ σκοποῦσιν οὐδὲν ἔτι φαίνεται παράδοξον οὐδὲ ἄπιστον τῶν ὑπ᾿ ἐμοῦ δεικνυμένων, ἀλλὰ σμικρὰ καὶ ἀνθρώπεια ψεύσματα πρὸς θεῖα καὶ μεγάλα


Yes. There are articles about this phenomenon:


Ann Suter. “Language of Gods and Language of Men: The Case of Paris/Alexandros.” Lexis 7-8 (1991) 13-25.

Presocratic Principles on a Sunday


Thales, fr. 20
“Water is the beginning and the end of everything.”

[οὕτος ἔφη] ἀρχὴν τοῦ παντὸς εἶναι καὶ τέλος τὸ ὕδωρ


Diogenes of Apollonia (D. L. 9.57)

“Diogenes believed these things: that the first principle is air, there are endless universes and empty space.”

᾿Εδόκει δὲ αὐτῷ τάδε· στοιχεῖον εἶναι τὸν ἀέρα, κόσμους ἀπείρους καὶ κενὸν ἄπειρον·

Anaximenes, Diog. 2.3

“He said that the first principle was the air and the boundless. And that the stars did not move under the earth, but around it.”

οὗτος ἀρχὴν ἀέρα εἶπεν καὶ τὸ ἄπειρον. κινεῖσθαι δὲ τὰ ἄστρα οὐχ ὑπὸ γῆν, ἀλλὰ περὶ γῆν.

Anaximander, Test. 10.3

“the boundless contains the origin of all creation and destruction.”

… τὸ ἄπειρον φάναι τὴν πᾶσαν αἰτίαν ἔχειν τῆς τοῦ παντὸς γενέσεώς τε καὶ φθορᾶς


Heraclitus, fr. 30

“This world, which no god or man ever made, the same world to all, it always was, is and will be an ever-living fire with some measures kindled and others going out.”

κόσμον τόνδε, τὸν αὐτὸν ἁπάντων, οὔτε τις θεῶν οὐτε ἀνθρώπων ἐποίησεν, ἀλλ’ ἦν ἀεὶ καὶ ἔστιν καὶ ἔσται πῦρ ἀείζωον, ἁπτόμενον μέτρα καὶ ἀποσβεννύμενον μέτρα

Heraclitus, fr. 76

“Fire creates the death of earth; air creates the death of fire; water creates the death of air; earth the death of water.”

ζῆι πῦρ τὸν γῆς θάνατον καὶ ἀὴρ ζῆι τὸν πυρὸς θάνατον, ὕδωρ ζῆι τὸν ἀέρος
θάνατον, γῆ τὸν ὕδατος.


Parmenides (Diogenes 9.21-23)

“He declared first that the world was spherical and in the center [of everything]. And he said there were two principle elements, fire and earth, and that the first acted like a craftsman and the second like material.”

πρῶτος δὲ οὗτος τὴν γῆν ἀπέφαινε σφαιροειδῆ καὶ ἐν μέσωι κεῖσθαι. δύο τε εἶναι στοιχεῖα, πῦρ καὶ γῆν, καὶ τὸ μὲν δημιουργοῦ τάξιν ἔχειν, τὴν δὲ ὕλης. (22)


Empedocles, fr. 17.25-27

I will speak a two-fold tale. Once, first, the one alone grew
Out of many and then in turn it grew apart into many from one.
Fire, and Water, and Earth and the invincible peak of Air,

δίπλ’ ἐρέω· τοτὲ μὲν γὰρ ἓν ηὐξήθη μόνον εἶναι
ἐκ πλεόνων, τοτὲ δ’ αὖ διέφυ πλέον’ ἐξ ἑνὸς εἶναι,
πῦρ καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ γαῖα καὶ ἠέρος ἄπλετον ὕψος,

Bonus Round

Heraclitus, fr. 53
“War is father and king of everything”

Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι, πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς

Sing it, Mr.Byrne

Korinthian Women and the Plot Against Medea

Two passages from the Scholia to Euripides’ Medea explain why Euripides told the story he did and what the ‘real’ facts were behind it.

Schol. B ad. Eur. Med. 9.1-11

“There’s a story from the philosophers that is much repeated—one Parmeniskos also offers—that Euripides changed the murder of the children to Medea because he accepted five talents from the Korinthians. [He claims] that the children of Medea were killed by the Korinthians because they were angry over her ruling the city and they wanted there to be an end of her ruling in Korinth, because it was her paternal [right]. For this reason he changed the [responsibility] to Medea. Hippus presents [accounts] about her residency in Korinth, as does Hellanikos. Eumelos and Simonides report that Medeia ruled Korinth. In his work called On Isthmian Affairs, Mousaios reports that Medeia was immortal, and he explains this also in his work on The Festivals of Hera Akraia.”

πολυάϊκός τις λόγος φέρεται τῶν φιλοσόφων, ὃν καὶ Παρμενίσκος ἐκτίθησιν, ὡς ἄρα πέντε τάλαντα λαβὼν παρὰ Κορινθίων Εὐριπίδης μεταγάγοι τὴν σφαγὴν τῶν παίδων ἐπὶ τὴν Μήδειαν. ἀποσφαγῆναι γὰρ τοὺς παῖδας Μηδείας ὑπὸ Κορινθίων παροξυνθέντων ἐπὶ τῷ βασιλεύειν αὐτὴν θέλειν διὰ τὸ τὴν Κόρινθον πατρῴαν αὐτῆς λῆξιν εἶναι· ὃ μετήγαγεν ἐπὶ Μήδειαν. περὶ δὲ τῆς εἰς Κόρινθον μετοικήσεως ῞Ιππυς [frg. 3] ἐκτίθεται καὶ ῾Ελλάνικος [frg. 34]. ὅτι δὲ βεβασίλευκε τῆς Κορίνθου ἡ Μήδεια, Εὔμηλος [frg. 3] ἱστορεῖ καὶ Σιμωνίδης [frg. 48]· ὅτι δὲ καὶ ἀθάνατος ἦν ἡ Μήδεια, Μουσαῖος ἐν τῷ περὶ ᾿Ισθμίων [FHG IV p. 518a] ἱστορεῖ, ἅμα καὶ περὶ τῶν τῆς ᾿Ακραίας ῞Ηρας ἑορτῶν ἐκτιθείς: —B

Schol. B ad Eur. Med. 264.1-11

“Parmeniskos writes the following for this line: “Because the Korinthian women did not want to be ruled by a barbaric, potion-pouring woman, they conspired against her and [planned] to kill her children, seven boys and seven girls. [Euripides says that she only had two]. They fled, pursued, into the temple of Hera Akraia and they stayed there. But even then the Korinthians did not hold back: they slaughtered all of them at the altar. Then a plague fell over the city, and many bodies were perishing because of a sickness. They received an oracle that the god must be propitiated for the hunt of Medeia’s children.  This is why each year during the appointed time seven girls and boys from the noblest families return to the precinct of the goddess and appease their rage—and the anger of the goddess on their behalf—with sacrifices.”

Παρμενίσκος γράφει κατὰ λέξιν οὕτως· ‘ταῖς δὲ Κορινθίαις οὐ βουλομέναις ὑπὸ βαρβάρου καὶ φαρμακίδος γυναικὸς ἄρχεσθαι αὐτῇ τε ἐπιβουλεῦσαι καὶ τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς ἀνελεῖν, ἑπτὰ μὲν ἄρσενα, ἑπτὰ δὲ θήλεα. [Εὐριπίδης δὲ δυσὶ μόνοις φησὶν αὐτὴν κεχρῆσθαι.] ταῦτα δὲ διωκόμενα καταφυγεῖν εἰς τὸ τῆς ᾿Ακραίας ῞Ηρας ἱερὸν καὶ ἐπὶ τὸ ἱερὸν καθίσαι. Κορινθίους δὲ αὐτῶν οὐδὲ οὕτως ἀπέχεσθαι, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τοῦ βωμοῦ πάντα ταῦτα ἀποσφάξαι. λοιμοῦ δὲ γενομένου εἰς τὴν πόλιν πολλὰ σώματα ὑπὸ τῆς νόσου διαφθείρεσθαι. μαντευομένοις δὲ αὐτοῖς χρησμῳδῆσαι τὸν θεὸν ἱλάσκεσθαι τὸ τῶν Μηδείας τέκνων ἄγος. ὅθεν Κορινθίοις μέχρι τῶν καιρῶν τῶν καθ’ ἡμᾶς καθ’ ἕκαστον ἐνιαυτὸν ἑπτὰ κούρους καὶ ἑπτὰ κούρας τῶν ἐπισημοτάτων ἀνδρῶν ἐναπενιαυτίζειν ἐν τῷ τῆς θεᾶς τεμένει καὶ μετὰ θυσιῶν ἱλάσκεσθαι τὴν ἐκείνων μῆνιν  καὶ τὴν δι’ ἐκείνους γενομένην τῆς θεᾶς ὀργήν’.

Image result for Medea vase

Alternative facts on vases

Dioscorides’ Advice for Expectant Couples

Dioscorides (Greek Anthology 5.54)

“Never go to bed at night with your pregnant wife and lie face-to-face, delighting in child-bearing Aphrodite. There will be a large swell between you, and it will be no small labor as you are rocked and she is rowed. Rather, turn yourself over, and enjoy her rosy rump, thinking that your wife is the masculine Aphrodite.”

Μήποτε γαστροβαρῆ πρὸς σὸν λέχος ἀντιπρόσωπον
παιδογόνῳ κλίνῃς Κύπριδι τερπόμενος.
μεσσόθι γὰρ μέγα κῦμα καὶ οὐκ ὀλίγος πόνος ἔσται
τῆς μὲν ἐρεσσομένης, σοῦ δὲ σαλευομένου.
ἀλλὰ πάλιν στρέψας ῥοδοειδέι τέρπεο πυγῇ,
τὴν ἄλοχον νομίσας ἀρσενόπαιδα Κύπριν.