This site is now four-years old—it has transformed a bit from its first days where we posted a line or two of text a day. Some days, I find myself wondering if my time could be put to better use. But then I read through what we have done here and find myself not just entertained but reminded of all the things I still don’t know. (And those I am using this site to remember for me…)
In honor of the three-year anniversary last year, we got a little silly trying to figure out how someone might say “Happy Birthday” in Ancient Greek (whether someone actually would say that is another question). The post became our most popular of all time.
Since this time last year, we went a little crazy over the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia (“The Battle of Frogs and Mice”). We did a translation and a full commentary. Meanwhile, we drew some inspiration from time abroad in Siena, Italy
There were some heady days too. We engaged in some translation tomfoolery, attempting to put the words of Paul Holdengraber’s mother (“Two Ears, One Mouth”) into Greek, Latin and verse) only to find out the proverb was already in Latin and Greek (and Danish and Arabic too!).
In the category of obsessions, we also investigated the numerous children of Odysseus not named Telemachus in vertiginous detail. /. When we weren’t immersed in mythography, we relaxed our severe standards a bit and got a bit naughty with poets like Martial (who instructed us on the difference between a finger and a penis). And, we even got another correspondent, the Fabulous Festus, to join in on the fun.
To be honest, we spent a good deal over time over the past year considering and championing the strange and obscure—probably posting too much from the Scholia to Lykophron’s Alexandra. This was the year we got addicted to anecdotes, quoting liberally from Aulus Gellius (he knows why Socrates stayed married!), Aelian (who tells the heart-breaking story of Thrasyllos and other people’s ships), and Philostratus (who tells us that Demosthenes refrained from wine!). Oh, we also took our quotes on a marathon.
Last year also witnessed the inclusion of anecdotes from and about scholars of the ancient world (Dr. Johnson: “Greek, sir, is like lace; every man gets as much of it as he can.” ) This was edifying at times—we learned why Housman failed to learn names of his students. And we learned about the darker side of lexicography in tales of Dr. Liddell himself.
Despite much of this silliness and revelry in the bizarre, we also used the site to explore other parts of the classics—for example, a course I taught on leadership in the ancient world, tried to teach ancient cavalry tactics using Risk pieces and put down some thoughts about how classical authors have influenced my approach to teaching.
Thanks to all who read this site for another fun year. The interest and support we have received has been both humbling and heartening. Here’s Euripides fr.910 to raise the tenor of the post a bit:
“Happy is he who has learned from inquiry
Not because he searches for pain for his countrymen
Nor some other unjust deeds
But because he seeks out the ageless order
of immortal nature—where
it came together, where it came from
Such men never harbor
A love of shameful deeds.”
ὄλβιος ὅστις τῆς ἱστορίας
μήτε πολιτῶν ἐπὶ πημοσύνην
μήτ’ εἰς ἀδίκους πράξεις ὁρμῶν,
ἀλλ’ ἀθανάτου καθορῶν φύσεως
κόσμον ἀγήρων, πῇ τε συνέστη
καὶ ὅπῃ καὶ ὅπως.
τοῖς δὲ τοιούτοις οὐδέποτ’ αἰσχρῶν.