Double the Trouble! Reading Platus’ Amphitruo Online!


Question: What does RGTO read when it’s not reading Greek Tragedy?



Jupiter turns himself into an Amphityron
While the real one wars against the Tele-boys
and takes his wife Alcmene for his own use.
So Mercury puts on the face of the absent Sosia,
his slave and Alcmena falls for these tricks!

When the real Amphitryon and Sosa return,
they are both mocked in wonderful ways.
This makes a fight for the real husband and wife,
until Zeus makes his sound with thunder and lighning
and copes to the adultery himself.”

In faciem uersus Amphitruonis Iuppiter,
dum bellum gereret cum Telobois hostibus,
Alcmenam uxorem cepit usurariam.
Mercurius formam Sosiae serui gerit
apsentis; his Alcmena decipitur dolis.
postquam rediere ueri Amphitruo et Sosia,
uterque deluduntur [dolis] in mirum modum.
hinc iurgium, tumultus uxori et uiro,
donec cum tonitru uoce missa ex aethere
adulterum se Iuppiter confessus est.

Today, Reading Greek Tragedy Online arrives in new territory: ROMAN COMEDY.

To be fair, the story of the Amphitruo is not entirely new. It tells of the night Herakles–well, in this case, Hercules, eheu–was born. It is perfect for the stage: filled with doubles, jokes, misrecognition, and gods sharing the stage with comic slaves. It is everything Roman audiences would have loved.

But how will it translate to the smallest of screens? Tune in to find out.

psoter for the play Amphitruo by Plautus with cartoon figures

Cast and Crew

Jasmine Bracey

Paul O’Mahony

Rene Thornton Jr.

Translator and Special Guest: Toph Marshall

Amazing People
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Host and Faculty Consultant: Joel Christensen (Brandeis University)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Poster Illustration Artist: John Koelle

Returning to a Moment’s Hesitation: Sophocles’ Electra Online, LIVE Tonight at UIC

Sophocles, Electra 20-22

“Before any man tries to leave this house
you need to plan: this is no longer the right time
for hesitation: now is the final of deeds”

πρὶν οὖν τιν᾿ ἀνδρῶν ἐξοδοιπορεῖν στέγης,
ξυνάπτετον λόγοισιν· ὡς ἐνταῦθ᾿ †ἐμὲν
ἵν᾿ οὐκέτ᾿ ὀκνεῖν καιρός, ἀλλ᾿ ἔργων ἀκμή.

There’s still time to register for the Live, in person performance

Poster for Sophocles' Electra, using Ann Carson's translation, an image of a woman with a knife behind her back

if you can’t make it in person, catch the live stream at 6 PM EDT

Sophocles, Elektra 1070-1074

“Tell them that their home is already plagued,
and that the strife among their children
is no longer balanced out
by the fact that they all love life.”

ὅτι σφὶν ἤδη τὰ μὲν ἐκ δόμων νοσεῖται,
τὰ δὲ πρὸς τέκνων διπλῆ φύ-
λοπις οὐκέτ᾿ ἐξισοῦται
φιλοτασίῳ διαίτᾳ.
πρόδοτος δὲ μόνα σαλεύει

Sophocles, Elektra 71-76

“Do not send me from this land in dishonor,
but as a master of my wealth and the captain of my house.
I have said enough now. Old man, it is your task
to go and safeguard this need.
And the two of us will go: for it is the perfect moment
and the perfect moment is man’s greatest guide in every deed.”

καὶ μή μ᾿ ἄτιμον τῆσδ᾿ ἀποστείλητε γῆς,
ἀλλ᾿ ἀρχέπλουτον καὶ καταστάτην δόμων.
εἴρηκα μέν νυν ταῦτα· σοὶ δ᾿ ἤδη, γέρον,
τὸ σὸν μελέσθω βάντι φρουρῆσαι χρέος.
75νὼ δ᾿ ἔξιμεν· καιρὸς γάρ, ὅσπερ ἀνδράσιν
μέγιστος ἔργου παντός ἐστ᾿ ἐπιστάτης.

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre have been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation since March 2020 As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Each week during the pandemic, we selected scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process was therapeutic for us; and it helped us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.

This year and last we have been experimenting with new formats, appearing twice in person for hybrid events. This performance of Sophocles’ Electra, using Ann Carson’s translation, is sponsored by UIC, Loyola College, and the Center for Hellenic Studies.

Sophocles, Elektra 91-95

“This hateful bed in our painful house
shares the pains of all my nights
how much I mourn for my wretched father…”

τὰ δὲ παννυχίδων κήδη στυγεραὶ
ξυνίσασ᾿ εὐναὶ μογερῶν οἴκων,
ὅσα τὸν δύστηνον ἐμὸν θρηνῶ

At this in-person and online event, we return to one of many plays set around the House of Atreus, Sophokles’ Elektra. This story follows Orestes’ return home to murder his mother (and her lover Aegisthus) for the killing of his father Agamemnon. For fans of tragedy, the tale is famous from our only full trilogy from ancient Athens, Aeschylus’ Oresteia. But it was legendary—and perhaps even paradigmatic—Homer’s Odyssey as well, where Orestes is held up repeatedly as a model of youthful initiative to Telemachus and Clytemnestra’s betrayal of her husband appears as a constant threat to Odysseus’ homecoming.

The story of Orestes is, like the end of the Odyssey, about the cycle of vengeance and the dangerous narrative pull of the call to revenge. In Aeschylus’ Eumenides, Orestes ends up in Athens where he is judged by a jury for his mother’s murder: his story pits the orders of one god (Apollo) against he claims of others (the Furies) and the loyalty of a son to mother or father. The story of the Elektra is a prolonged rumination on the choices made before that crises. This version of the tale is often dated to the end of Sophocles’ life, during the middle of the Peloponnesian War. It features Orestes returning with Pylades in disguise to announce his death. The title character, Electra, has been mourning her father’s murder and longing for her brother’s return. Once she finds out about Orestes’ true identity, the play turns to the murder, but prior to that ever delayed moment of recognition, the audiences witnesses Orestes’ hesitation and Electra’s sorrow.

Sophocles, Electra 1047

“Nothing is more hateful than a bad plan.”

βουλῆς γὰρ οὐδέν ἐστιν ἔχθιον κακῆς.

Scenes (Ann Carson’s translation)

Lines 338-442 (pp61-63)
Lines 692-1118 (pp70-82)
Lines 1464-2008 (pp93-111)

Sophocles, Elektra 1082-1089

“No noble person wants
to ruin their good reputation by living badly
namelessly, my child.
So you have accepted for yourself
a life of fame and constant sorrow,
making a weapon from a noble cure–
with one strike you win two prizes
to be called a child excellent and wise.”

οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀγαθῶν
ζῶν κακῶς εὔκειαν αἰσχῦναι θέλοι
νώνυμος, ὦ παῖ παῖ·
ὡς καὶ σὺ πάγκλαυτον αἰ-
ῶνα κλεινὸν εἵλου,
ἄκος καλὸν καθοπλίσα-
σα δύο φέρειν ἑνὶ λόγῳ,
σοφά τ᾿ ἀρίστα τε παῖς κεκλῆσθαι.


Electra – Melíza Gutierrez

Clytemnestra -Eunice Roberts

Chorus – Phoebe Golfinos and Julia Strug

Old Man – Paul O’Mahony

Orestes – Ernest Emmanuel Peeples

Aegisthus – André Teamer

Special Guests, Jonah Flannagan Radding

Facilitator Extraordinaire: Krishni Burns

Sophocles, Elektra 1282-1287

“My love–I am hearing a voice
I never hoped to hear,
but still I kept my eagerness quiet.
I heard with no cry in response.
But now, I have you. You are clear as day,
holding the dearest vision before me,
something I never could forget in any troubles.”

ὦ φίλ᾿, ἔκλυον
ἃν ἐγὼ οὐδ᾿ ἂν ἤλπισ᾿ αὐδάν.
έσχον ὀργὰν ἄναυδον
οὐδὲ σὺν βοᾷ κλύουσ᾿ ἁ τάλαινα.
νῦν δ᾿ ἔχω σε· προὐφάνης δὲ
φιλτάταν ἔχων πρόσοψιν,
ἇς ἐγὼ οὐδ᾿ ἂν ἐν κακοῖς λαθοίμαν.

Sophocles, Elektra 119-120

“I can’t hold out any longer
bearing the weight of my grief alone.”

μούνη γὰρ ἄγειν οὐκέτι σωκῶ
λύπης ἀντίρροπον ἄχθος.

From our last performance of the play


Sophocles, Elektra 1038

“When you’re in your right mind, then you can lead us.”

ὅταν γὰρ εὖ φρονῇς, τόθ᾿ ἡγήσῃ σὺ νῷν.

A Reminder: Medical and Philosophical Traditions Consider Women Not Fully Human

Aristotle, Generation of Animals Book 2, 737a

“That [female] substance, even though it possesses all segments of the body in potential, actually exhibits none of them. For it contains those kinds of elements in potential by which the female is distinguished from the male. For just as it happens that at times deformed children come from deformed parents and at times they do not, so too in the same way sometimes female offspring come from females and sometimes they don’t, but males do instead. For the female is like a deformity of the male and menstrual discharge is like semen, but unclean.”

καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνο περίττωμα, καὶ πάντα τὰ μόρια ἔχει δυνάμει, ἐνεργείᾳ δ᾿ οὐθέν. καὶ γὰρ τὰ τοιαῦτ᾿ ἔχει μόρια δυνάμει, ᾗ διαφέρει τὸ θῆλυ τοῦ ἄρρενος. ὥσπερ γὰρ καὶ ἐκ πεπηρωμένων ὁτὲ μὲν γίνεται πεπηρωμένα ὁτὲ δ᾿οὔ, οὕτω καὶ ἐκ θήλεος ὁτὲ μὲν θῆλυ ὁτὲ δ᾿ οὔ, ἀλλ᾿ ἄρρεν. τὸ γὰρ θῆλυ ὥσπερ ἄρρεν ἐστὶ πεπηρωμένον, καὶ τὰ καταμήνια σπέρμα, οὐ καθαρὸν δέ

Generation of Animals, Book 4, 767b

“These causes are also of the same. Some [offspring] are born similar to their parents while others are not. Some are similar to their father; others are like their mother, applying both to the body as a whole and to each part. Offspring are more like their parents than their ancestors and more like their ancestors than passersby.

Males are more similar to their father and females are more similar to their mother. But some are not like any of their relatives, but are still akin to human beings while others are like not at all like humans in their appearance, but rather like some monster. For whoever is not like his parents is in some way a monster because nature has in these cases wandered in some way from the essential character. The first beginning of this is when a female was born instead of a male.

But this is necessary by nature since a race of things divided by male and female must be preserved and since the male may at times not be in control because of age or youth or some other reason, it is necessary for species to have female offspring. Monstrosity is not necessary for any reason or specific ends, but it is necessary by probability of accident—since its origin must be considered as residing here.”

Αἱ δ᾿ αὐταὶ αἰτίαι καὶ τοῦ τὰ μὲν ἐοικότα γίνεσθαι τοῖς τεκνώσασι τὰ δὲ μὴ ἐοικότα, καὶ τὰ μὲν πατρὶ τὰ δὲ μητρί, κατά τε ὅλον τὸ σῶμα καὶ κατὰ μόριον ἕκαστον, καὶ μᾶλλον αὐτοῖς ἢ τοῖς προγόνοις, καὶ τούτοις ἢ τοῖς τυχοῦσι, καὶ τὰ μὲν ἄρρενα μᾶλλον τῷ πατρὶ τὰ δὲ θήλεα τῇ μητρί, τὰ δ᾿ οὐδενὶ τῶν συγγενῶν, ὅμως δ᾿ ἀνθρώπῳ γέ τινι, τὰ δ᾿ οὐδ᾿ ἀνθρώπῳ τὴν ἰδέαν ἀλλ᾿ ἤδη τέρατι. καὶ γὰρ ὁ μὴ ἐοικὼς τοῖς γονεῦσιν ἤδη τρόπον τινὰ τέρας ἐστίν· παρεκβέβηκε γὰρ ἡ φύσις ἐν τούτοις ἐκ τοῦ γένους τρόπον τινά. ἀρχὴ δὲ πρώτη τὸ θῆλυ γίνεσθαι καὶ μὴ ἄρρεν. ἀλλ᾿ αὕτη μὲν ἀναγκαία τῇ φύσει, δεῖ γὰρ σώζεσθαι τὸ γένος τῶν κεχωρισμένων κατὰ τὸ θῆλυ καὶ τὸ ἄρρεν· ἐνδεχομένου δὲ μὴ κρατεῖν ποτὲ τὸ ἄρρεν ἢ διὰ νεότητα ἢ γῆρας ἢ δι᾿ ἄλλην τινὰ αἰτίαν τοιαύτην, ἀνάγκη γίνεσθαι θηλυτοκίαν ἐν τοῖς ζῴοις. τὸ δὲ τέρας οὐκ ἀναγκαῖον πρὸς τὴν ἕνεκά του καὶ τὴν τοῦ τέλους αἰτίαν, ἀλλὰ κατὰ συμβεβηκὸς ἀναγκαῖον, ἐπεὶ τήν γ᾿ ἀρχὴν ἐντεῦθεν δεῖ λαμβάνειν.

τέρας: can mean ‘monster’ (as translated here) or divine sign/omen. In cognates and parallel forms it is also associated with magic and the unnatural.

πηρόω (πεπηρωμένον) is a denominative verb from the noun πηρός, which means “infirm, invalid” (hence: “blind or lame”)

Thomson, Rosemarie Garland. 1997. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York.

19: “Perhaps the founding association of femaleness with disability occurs in the fourth book of Generation of Animals, Aristotle’s discourse of the normal and the abnormal, in which he refines the Platonic concept of antinomies so that bodily variety translates into hierarchies of the typical and aberrant.”

20: “What this passage makes clearest, however, is that without the monstrous body to demarcate the borders of the generic, without the female body to distinguish the shape of the male, and without the pathological to give form to the normal, the taxonomies of bodily value that underlie political, social and economic arrangements would collapse.”

20: “This persistent intertwining of disability with femaleness in Western discourse provides a starting point for exploring the relationship of social identity to the body. As Aristotle’s pronouncement suggests, the social category of disability rests on the significance accorded bodily functioning and configuration.”

color photograph of two woman standing next to each other sculpted out of ivory
Ivory Sculpture from the MET


Just Some Fun and Games After Dinner

Homer, Odyssey 8.97-103 (Alkinoos speaking)

“Now, let us go out and test ourselves at every kind of competition so that this stranger may tell his friends once he gets home how much we are better than the rest at boxing and wrestling, and jumping and running.”

“νῦν δ’ ἐξέλθωμεν καὶ ἀέθλων πειρηθῶμεν
πάντων, ὥς χ’ ὁ ξεῖνος ἐνίσπῃ οἷσι φίλοισιν
οἴκαδε νοστήσας, ὅσσον περιγινόμεθ’ ἄλλων
πύξ τε παλαιμοσύνῃ τε καὶ ἅλμασιν ἠδὲ πόδεσσιν.”

Schol. EQ ad 8.100 ex 6 asks

[now, let us go out..]“Why were the Phaeacians after dinner competing in the bare competition, the race and the double race, and not any other sport? For these are wholly the activities of leisurely people. Perhaps because it was necessary to make this suitable to their character, since the poetry is imitation [mimesis], [the poet] composed it thus. For they say “the feast and the cithara and dances are always dear to us”

νῦν δ’ ἐξέλθωμεν] διὰ τί οἱ Φαίακες εὐωχηθέντες ἠγωνίζοντο γυμνικὸν ἀγῶνα, δρόμον καὶ δίαυλον καὶ οὐ τὴν ἄλλην ἄθλησιν; παντελῶς γὰρ ἀπόνων ἀνθρώπων ταῦτα. ἴσως δὲ, ἁρμόττον τοῖς ἤθεσι δέον ποιεῖν, ἐπειδὴ μίμησις ἡ ποίησις, οὕτω πεποίηκεν. ὅτι δὲ τοιοῦ-τοι δῆλον. ἔφασαν γὰρ “ἀεὶ δ’ ἡμῖν δαίς τε φίλη κίθαρίς τε χοροί τε” (248.).

Schol. HQ ad Od. 8.102 ex

[lemma] And how does he say later “For we are not preeminent at boxing or wrestling”? Certainly, in however much they are inexperienced with Odysseus, they think they conquer all of them in these games when in the actual performance once he speaks of himself, Odysseus boasted about the rest of the competitions, begging out only in the race and responding to the praise of Alkinoos when he said “but we run swiftly with our feet and are best at ships..” (247)

ὅσον περιγιγνόμεθ’ ἄλλων πύξ τε παλαιμοσύνῃ τε] καὶ πῶς φησιν “οὐ γὰρ πυγμάχοι εἰμὲν ἀμύμονες οὐδὲ παλαισταί” (246.); ἐν ὅσῳ τοίνυν ἄπειροί εἰσιν ᾿Οδυσσέως οἴονται νικᾶν ἅπαντας ἐν τούτοις, ὅτε δὲ τῇ πείρᾳ δείξας ἑαυτὸν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἐκαυχήσατο περὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἄθλων μόνον παραιτησάμενος τὸν δρόμον, ἀντιμεταλαβὼν τὰ ἐγκώμια ᾿Αλκίνους φησὶν “ἀλλὰ ποσὶ κραιπνῶς θέομεν καὶ νηυσὶν ἄριστοι, ἀεὶ δ’ ἡμῖν δαίς τε φίλη, εἵματά τ’ ἐξημοιβά” (247—249.).

Od. 8.131–139

“When they had all delighted their minds with the competitions,
Then Laodamas, the child of Alkinoos, spoke to them:
“Come, friends, let us ask the guest if he knows any sport
And excels at it. For he is not bad in respect to his form at least:
His thighs and shins and both hands above—
He has strong neck and great strength. He lacks little of youth
But he has been broken by many troubles.
For I say that nothing else overwhelms a man more terribly
Than the sea, even if he is very strong.”

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ δὴ πάντες ἐτέρφθησαν φρέν’ ἀέθλοις,
τοῖσ’ ἄρα Λαοδάμας μετέφη, πάϊς ᾿Αλκινόοιο·
“δεῦτε, φίλοι, τὸν ξεῖνον ἐρώμεθα, εἴ τιν’ ἄεθλον
οἶδέ τε καὶ δεδάηκε· φυήν γε μὲν οὐ κακός ἐστι,
μηρούς τε κνήμας τε καὶ ἄμφω χεῖρας ὕπερθεν
αὐχένα τε στιβαρὸν μέγα τε σθένος· οὐδέ τι ἥβης
δεύεται, ἀλλὰ κακοῖσι συνέρρηκται πολέεσσιν.
οὐ γὰρ ἐγώ γέ τί φημι κακώτερον ἄλλο θαλάσσης
ἄνδρα γε συγχεῦαι, εἰ καὶ μάλα καρτερὸς εἴη.”

Scholia T
[Lemma] [he got these things are also from meeting [him]. For they are using irony because they believe they are superior in this pursuit. And, moreover, he also suggests a good character, so that, if he should do poorly, he might have a good excuse in the ruining of the body.”

φυήν γε μὲν] καὶ ταῦτα ἐκ συμβαίνοντος· κατειρωνεύονται γὰρ οἱ ἔν τινι ἐπιτηδεύματι προὔχειν οἰόμενοι. μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ χρηστὸν ἦθος ὑποβάλλει, ἵνα, ἐὰν ἀποτύχῃ, συγγνώμης δικαίας τύχῃ διὰ τὸ κεκακῶσθαι τὸ σῶμα. T.


“Euryalus responded and answered to him.
‘Laodamas, you have spoken this plan according to what is right.
Now go out and call to him and tell him this idea.”

τὸν δ’ αὖτ’ Εὐρύαλος ἀπαμείβετο φώνησέν τε·
“Λαοδάμαν, μάλα τοῦτο ἔπος κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπες.
αὐτὸς νῦν προκάλεσσαι ἰὼν καὶ πέφραδε μῦθον.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Odysseus discus

Procopius’ Secret History

Skimming through the Wall Street Journal at school the other day, an article about the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine caught my eye.  It did not talk about military progress or strategic victories, but rather, it raised alarmist concerns about the education system in occupied Ukraine. Russian forces were coercing Ukrainian teachers to teach a new curriculum in Russian that laundered the reputation of Russia and its leading figures. In other words, revisionist history.

After the immediate feeling of shock subsided, I remembered that revising history has been the tried-and-true method to building an empire.[1]

Throughout history, there are several examples of exalted historians manipulating the tales they are telling in service of an empire. One such case would be the famed Byzantine historian Procopius (d. 565 ce). Procopius chronicled the reign of Justinian I (d. 565 ce) and his wife Theodora (d. 548 ce).  His official histories of Justinian I’s rule have been extolled for millennia as the peak of historical recording since the Roman Empire.[2]

Several centuries later, a dusty tome was found hidden behind a fake wall in the Vatican Library. Procopius’ Anecdota, informally referred to as the Secret Histories, tells a tale not of the good emperor that he extols in his official histories, but rather of a demon disguised as a man, seeking the total destruction of his empire: “That Justinian was not a man, but a demon, as I have said, in human form, one might prove by considering the enormity of the evils he brought upon mankind.”[3]

In contrast to the vitriolic tone of Procopius’ Anecdota, the official histories are more formally penned and glorify Justinian I.[4] For example, at the conclusion of Procopius’s historical text Buildings he ends with connecting the emperor to a demi-god; “They swell with pride and smile upon the Emperor, offering him honours as though to a demi-god, after his magnificent achievements.”[5] During the time of the official histories’ writing, the Byzantine Empire was waging several wars on the periphery of their borders. Two of these wars were the subjects for Procopius’ histories, aptly titled Histories of the Wars. In them, Procopius talks at length about the campaigns underway in continental Italy and the posturing happening at the Persian border. The important conflict for us to look at is the war between the Ostrogoths and the Byzantines in Sicily and southern Italy. This campaign was meant to be Justinian’s crowning achievement, reuniting the Eastern and Western halves of the Roman Empire. In this campaign, the famed Byzantine general Belisarius was constantly winning battle after battle for Justinian, and making tremendous gains in terms of territory in Italy. As such, the Histories of the Wars rightly lauds both Belisarius for his military prowess and Justinian for his statesmanship.

The official histories are just that, official histories. As Procopious’ later works evinced, Justinian was not only losing his military campaigns but was also unfit to rule. “As for seizing property and murdering men, he never got his fill of them, but after plundering numerous homes of affluent men he kept seeking new ones, straightway pouring out the proceeds of his earlier robbery in making presents to sundry barbarians or in erecting senseless buildings.”[6]

“Official histories” like Procopius’ serve to launder the reputation of whatever empire that employs them. They have been endorsed by the state and are propped up as the government-approved history of the empire. This is quite similar to what Russia is trying to do in Ukraine, albeit not in the same manner. Instead of trying to moderate the histories that get written into a book, Russia is trying to instead manipulate the history that will be taught in schools. Russia is not the only country who has attempted to massage the details of their history. An example of this in very recent U.S. history would be the 1776 project begun by former President Donald Trump. The 1776 project was aimed to provide American children with a “patriotic education,” ostensibly defending the link between America’s founding and the legacy of slavery, while also likening modern-day progressivism to fascism.[7]

It is interesting to note that official histories are often written when things go wrong. Empires tend to fixate on knowledge production and legacy the most when the seams are unraveling beneath them. The change in curriculum comes at a time when Putin is losing his grip in Ukraine; he is trying to force Russian identity into Ukraine, in an effort to try and justify its continued presence in Ukraine. This is an echo of what occurred in the Byzantine Empire under Justinian’s reign. Justinian urged Procopius to write about all the battles he was winning in Italy when, in reality, his armies were being annihilated in the fields and his captured territories being reconquered.

Procopius’ writings help to better understand the present in the sense that they offer a word of warning about the ways in which empires will go about revising history. The state-sponsored history in Russian-occupied Ukraine, the official histories written by Procopius, and the 1776 project in the United States (among many other examples) are echoes of one another, with each shedding light on the ways in which nations alter their history to better suit their needs.


[1] “A piece of Propaganda” The eighth campaign of Sargon II. A historiographical approach. Last modified 2016.

[2] J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire: From the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian (Dover: Dover Publications, 2011).

[3] Procopius, The Secret History of Procopius, trans. by Richard Atwater (New York: Kessinger Publishing, [1927] 2003), 178.

[4] Philip Rousseau, “Procopius’s ‘Buildings’ and Justinian’s Pride,” Byzantion 68, no. 1 (1998): 121-30

[5] Procopius, Of the Buildings of Justinian,” trans. by Aubrey Stewart (Adegi Graphics 1999).

[6]  Procopius, The Secret History, 118

[7] Michael Crowley and Jennifer Schuessler, “Trump’s 1776 Commission Critiques Liberalism in a Report Denied by Historians,” The New York Times, Jan 18, 2021.


 Hunter MacArthur is a junior at St. Sebastian’s in Needham. He can be reached at

I am in love with a third declension noun


Child: Mom and Dad, I’m in love!

Father: That’s great, dear. We’re so happy for you. Tell us all about it.

Child: I’ve never felt this way about another person. I’m giddy with joy at the idea that we can be together forever!

Mother: Who is it? Do we know the family?

Child: I can’t wait for you to meet. I know you’ll love each other so much.

Father: Go ahead; describe your new love.

Child: I hope you will approve. Will you?

Mother: What do you mean? Of course we will approve.

Child: I mean… Well… I’ll just say it: It’s… a third declension.

Father: What?! I can’t believe it… our child falling in love with one of them?

Mother: Calm yourself, dear. I’m sure we can get our child to see reason.

Child: Reason? I’m in love!

Father: But see here, you know this is a shock to your mother and me. You must understand… Her family has been first declension for generations, and my own family has been second declension longer than anybody can remember.

Child: But we’re all NOUNS, right? Can’t we accept one another, no matter what declension we are?

Mother: Of course we’re all nouns, dear, but…

Child: And don’t we all have gender, number, and case?

Father: Yes, that all goes without saying, but the third declensions… Well…

They’re a DIFFERENT KIND of noun.

Child: But aren’t first and second declensions also different from one another in some ways?

Mother: Yes, of course we’re different in small ways, but we are compatible. It’s just… Well, you know what they say about third declensions… They’re… Well, they’re irregular.

Child: Are you prejudiced against the stem change? Is that it? Just because they have stems and endings a little bit different than yours doesn’t make them monsters.

Father: Yes, but a group that has all three genders is a bit tough for us traditionalists to handle.

Child: Don’t be hypocritical; what about some of my second declension uncles and aunts on your side who are masculine or feminine, depending on the context?

Father: Please, I told you not to mention them in polite company. Let’s not discuss that.

Child: And what about some of my first declension cousins who have what look like masculine endings, but are feminine? I won’t mention any names, but you know who they are. And now that I think about it, what about some of my cousins who are masculine first declensions (that’s your side Mom), who have what look like feminine plural endings? Do you call them irregular? Do you love them any less because of that little quirk?

Mother: Of course we love them, dear. They’re our family, bless their hearts. We accept them… But third declensions… I just don’t know. And what would our friends say?

Father: Now see here; we have known some third declensions, but never socialized with them, let alone become intimate with them. I just can’t imagine having them permanently in our lives. Would we invite them to the beach house? Imagine a bunch of them lying out there sunbathing – and

FULLY DECLINED – I don’t know if I could bear the sight. Sorry, I know that my saying this hurts you, but I’m only being honest.

Child: Well I love my third declension, and we’re going to marry and raise a family and be happy together for the rest of our lives, whether you like it or not.

Mother: You would have children with a third declension?

Child: I love my third declension, Momma! Don’t you remember what first love is like? Don’t you remember the thrill of first exploring all the cases of your beloved, both singular and plural? Remember when you first saw Daddy’s dative plural?

Mother: [sighs] You’re right. That gave me the shivers, in a wonderfully happy way. Yes, new love is a beautiful thing. And really, we all ARE nouns, aren’t we? And we should not let something like this break up our family.

Father: Yes, dear; you’re right, too. [sighs] I remember the thrill when your vocative first crossed my lips. What love! Our child is right; we must love everyone in our family, regardless of the status of their stems or endings. Love is love. Besides, our older children have already married within their own declensions, so I guess it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the youngest brings in someone different. Dear child, I’m sure we will learn to love your spouse. You have our blessings.

And they all lived happily ever after.


Nude winged man playing aulos on a dolphin. Red figure
Red-figure Lekythos: Eros Riding a Dolphin and Playing the Double Flutes (Auloi)

Daniel B. Levine (BA Minnesota 1975; PhD Cincinnati 1980) is University Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Arkansas, where he has taught Classical Studies, Humanities, Greek, and Latin since 1980. His publications include essays on Greek comedy, tragedy, and epic poetry, and modern literary receptions of ancient Greek and Roman literature, including works by Rita Mae Brown, V. T. Hamlin, and Michael Chabon. He has received teaching and service awards from the Society for Classical Studies, the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, and the University of Arkansas. He has directed 19 study abroad programs.

Sententiae AI-ntiquae: Chat[GPT]ing Up the Classics

An image generated by DALL•E of an ancient mosaic of comic masks. There are three masks. The left and right are partially cut off. The background is red. The masks have pale skin, wide-open mouths, big noses, and piercing eyes.Twitter and the tech world have been abuzz recently about ChatGPT, an artificial-intelligence conversation bot that will respond to your questions and prompts, often with surprisingly cogent language. It’s made by the same outfit that created DALL•E, the image-generation AI — look to your right for an example of DALL•E’s handiwork.

I took it for a spin through some of Classics’ greatest hits, and then got weird with it.  Below are the best results, starting with a normcore but, again, surprisingly cogent bit of prep for comprehensive exams, and then progressing into glimpses of what the AI thinks about ancient Greek and Roman history, literature, and philosophy.  The text in bold is what I fed to ChatGPT as prompts, and everything else are its responses, unedited.

Three prompts for essays about Greek comedy

    1. “The role of satire in Ancient Greek comedy: How did playwrights use humor and mockery to critique society and political figures?”
    2. “The evolution of Greek comedy: How did the genre change and develop over time, and what were the key influences and innovations?”
    3. “Comparing and contrasting the works of Aristophanes and Menander: How did these two playwrights approach comedy, and what were the similarities and differences in their styles and themes?”

A Homeric Hymn to Beyoncé

Hear me, O goddess Beyoncé,
Daughter of the goddess Tina,
Born to greatness in the city of Houston,
Goddess of music and dance,
Your beauty is like the stars above,
Your voice a symphony of sweet sounds,
Your performance a sight to behold,
A vision of grace and poise,
You are the queen of all you survey,
A shining light in the music world,
Your talents and gifts known far and wide,
A source of inspiration and joy,
From your humble beginnings in Destiny’s Child,
To your rise as a solo artist,
You have conquered stages and hearts,
A true diva, the likes of which the world has never seen,
So sing a hymn to Beyoncé,
A goddess among mortals,
A shining star in the firmament,
A source of beauty, power, and majesty,
Hear us, O goddess Beyoncé,
And grant us a glimpse of your divine radiance,
A reminder of the greatness that lies within us all.

Cicero, Caesar, and Catullus go to a pizzeria. Who picks the toppings on their pizza, and what are the toppings?

with credit to my buddy from grad school, Derek Keyser, who liked asking versions of this question of visiting prospectives

It is difficult to say for certain who would pick the toppings on the pizza, as there is not enough information about the personalities and preferences of Cicero, Caesar, and Catullus. However, it is possible to speculate based on what we know about these historical figures.

Cicero was a Roman statesman and philosopher who was known for his eloquence and rhetorical skills. He was also a famous gourmet, and was known to enjoy good food and drink. Given his love of good food, it is likely that Cicero would have a strong opinion on the toppings for the pizza, and would likely choose something exotic and flavorful.

Caesar was a Roman general and statesman who was known for his military prowess and political ambition. He was also a well-known lover of luxury, and was known to indulge in rich food and drink. Given his taste for luxury, it is likely that Caesar would choose toppings that are expensive and high-quality, such as truffles or caviar.

Catullus was a Roman poet who was known for his passionate and emotional poetry. He was also known to enjoy good food and drink, and was known to be a bit of a hedonist. Given his love of pleasure, it is likely that Catullus would choose toppings that are rich and indulgent, such as cheese, bacon, and mushrooms.

Overall, it is difficult to say exactly what toppings Cicero, Caesar, and Catullus would choose for their pizza, as this would depend on their individual preferences and personalities. However, based on what we know about these historical figures, it is likely that their choices would reflect their love of good food and their enjoyment of luxury.

Who would have been a better drag queen, Plato or Aristotle?

It is difficult to say definitively who would have been a better drag queen between Plato and Aristotle. Both men were renowned philosophers and thinkers, and it is possible that they would have brought different strengths and talents to the world of drag. Plato was known for his emphasis on imagination and creativity, which could have made him a strong performer with a unique and imaginative style. Aristotle, on the other hand, was known for his logical and analytical mind, which could have made him a skilled and disciplined drag queen with a well-planned and polished performance. Ultimately, it is up to personal preference as to which of these philosophers would have been the better drag queen.

A dialogue in which Socrates asks Gorgias increasingly irritating questions about Seinfeld

Socrates: Greetings, Gorgias. I hear that you are a fan of the TV show Seinfeld.
Gorgias: Yes, Socrates, I am a fan of Seinfeld. It is a classic show that is still enjoyed by many people today.
Socrates: Tell me, Gorgias, what do you believe is the purpose of Seinfeld?
Gorgias: The purpose of Seinfeld, Socrates, is to entertain and to make people laugh. It is a comedy show that follows the everyday lives of a group of friends in New York City.
Socrates: I see. And do you believe that Seinfeld achieves this purpose?
Gorgias: Yes, I do believe that Seinfeld achieves its purpose. It is a funny and entertaining show that has been enjoyed by millions of people.
Socrates: But do you not find the characters in Seinfeld to be shallow and self-centered? Do they not constantly engage in petty squabbles and arguments?
Gorgias: Well, Socrates, I suppose that some of the characters in Seinfeld could be seen as shallow and self-centered. However, I still find the show to be funny and entertaining.
Socrates: And do you not find the humor in Seinfeld to be crass and tasteless at times? Do the characters not frequently engage in crude and vulgar behavior?
Gorgias: Yes, Socrates, I do believe that the humor in Seinfeld can be crass and tasteless at times. However, I still enjoy the show and find it to be funny.
Socrates: But do you not think that the constant emphasis on material possessions and shallow relationships in Seinfeld is harmful and unedifying? Do you not believe that it reinforces negative values and behaviors?
Gorgias: Well, Socrates, I can see how some people might view Seinfeld in that way. However, I still enjoy the show and find it to be entertaining.
Socrates: I see. It seems that you are willing to overlook the many flaws and negative aspects of Seinfeld in order to enjoy its shallow and vulgar humor. Perhaps you should reconsider your admiration for this show, Gorgias.

A story in the style of Herodotus about Solon’s experiences with speed-dating

Solon, the wise and noble Athenian lawgiver, was known for his wisdom and fair-mindedness. But even he had not yet encountered the strange and wondrous ritual known as speed-dating.

One day, a group of his friends convinced him to give it a try. He reluctantly agreed, and soon found himself seated at a small table with a group of other singletons. A bell rang, and the first potential partner approached him.

“Hello, I’m Daphne,” she said with a smile. “What do you do for a living?”

Solon was taken aback. “I am a lawgiver,” he replied, unsure of how to proceed.

“Oh, that’s interesting,” Daphne replied, before quickly moving on to the next person.

The bell rang again, and another potential partner approached Solon. This time it was a young man named Hector.

“Hi, I’m Hector,” he said, shaking Solon’s hand. “What do you enjoy doing in your free time?”

Solon was stumped. He had never been asked such a question before. “I enjoy contemplating the nature of justice and the laws that govern society,” he replied, trying to make conversation.

Hector looked confused, but before he could respond, the bell rang again, signaling the end of their time together. Solon watched as Hector moved on to the next person, feeling a sense of relief.

The rest of the speed-dating session passed in a blur of introductions and small talk, with Solon feeling increasingly out of his depth. By the end, he was grateful to return to his familiar world of philosophical contemplation and lawmaking.

As he left the speed-dating event, Solon shook his head in amazement. He had never before encountered such a strange and frenzied way of meeting potential partners. It was not for him, but he could not deny the ingenuity of those who had devised it.

T. H. M. Gellar-Goad is Associate Professor of Classics at Wake Forest University. He is author of Laughing Atoms, Laughing Matter: Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura and Satire, Plautus: Curculio, and two more books under contract, and was recently co-organizer of Feminism & Classics 2022. Send him stories (but not pictures)  at

Ignoring the Cause, Assailing the Symptoms

Euripides, Andromache 26-31

“Before, even though I was buried in sorrows
Hope always led me to this child who, if saved
Might provide some kind of defense or aid.

But once my husband married that Spartan Hermione
He has spurned my slave’s bed and I
Have been battered down by her evil tortures.”

καὶ πρὶν μὲν ἐν κακοῖσι κειμένην ὅμως
ἐλπίς μ᾿ ἀεὶ προσῆγε σωθέντος τέκνου
ἀλκήν τιν᾿ εὑρεῖν κἀπικούρησιν κακῶν·
ἐπεὶ δὲ τὴν Λάκαιναν Ἑρμιόνην γαμεῖ
τοὐμὸν παρώσας δεσπότης δοῦλον λέχος,
κακοῖς πρὸς αὐτῆς σχετλίοις ἐλαύνομαι.


“You do huge things for minor reasons—
Listen to me! Why are you hurting me? What’s the reason
What city did I betray? Which child of yours did I kill?
What home did I burn down? I was forced to bed
With my master. You’ll kill me and not him
When he is the cause of these things? You’ll ignore
The cause and just keep pounding on the symptom?”

ὦ μεγάλα πράσσων αἰτίας σμικρᾶς πέρι,
πιθοῦ· τί καίνεις μ᾿; ἀντὶ τοῦ; ποίαν πόλιν
προύδωκα; τίνα σῶν ἔκτανον παίδων ἐγώ;
ποῖον δ᾿ ἔπρησα δῶμ᾿; ἐκοιμήθην βίᾳ
σὺν δεσπόταισι· κᾆτ᾿ ἔμ᾿, οὐ κεῖνον κτενεῖς,
τὸν αἴτιον τῶνδ᾿, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀφεὶς
πρὸς τὴν τελευτὴν ὑστέραν οὖσαν φέρῃ;

Colin Morison (1732-1810) – Andromache Offering Sacrifice to Hector’s Shade


“Child, I who bore you go to Hades now
So you may not die. If you outrun this fate,
Remember your mother, all I suffered and how I died.
Go to your father and through kisses
Tell him what I died while shedding tears
And throwing your arms around him.
Children are the soul of all humankind—
Whoever has no children mocks them and
While they may feel less pain, feel sadder happiness too”

ὦ τέκνον, ἡ τεκοῦσά σ᾿, ὡς σὺ μὴ θάνῃς,
στείχω πρὸς Ἅιδην· ἢν δ᾿ ὑπεκδράμῃς μόρον,
μέμνησο μητρός, οἷα τλᾶσ᾿ ἀπωλόμην,
καὶ πατρὶ τῷ σῷ διὰ φιλημάτων ἰὼν
δάκρυά τε λείβων καὶ περιπτύσσων χέρας
λέγ᾿ οἷ᾿ ἔπραξα. πᾶσι δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις ἄρ᾿ ἦν
ψυχὴ τέκν᾿· ὅστις δ᾿ αὔτ᾿ ἄπειρος ὢν ψέγει,
ἧσσον μὲν ἀλγεῖ, δυστυχῶν δ᾿ εὐδαιμονεῖ.

Check out Tamieka Chavis’ fabulous reading as Andromache


Flammable Bones and Renewable Eyes: Some Amazing Animal Facts

Paradoxographus Vaticanus, 4-8

4 “Aristotle says in his work On Animals that all land animals have respiration—as many as have lungs—except for the wasp and bee which do not breathe. However many animals have a bladder also have bowels. But not all animals who have bowels also have a bladder.”

᾿Αριστοτέλης φησὶν ἐν τοῖς περὶ ζῴων τὰ χερσαῖα πάντα ἀναπνεῖν, ὅσα πνεύμονας ἔχει, σφῆκαν δὲ καὶ μέλισσαν οὐκ ἀναπνεῖν. ὅσα τε κύστιν ἔχει, πάντα καὶ κοιλίαν· οὐχ ὅσα δὲ κοιλίαν καὶ κύστιν.

5 “Many of the animals are bloodless, and and, in general they are animals who have more than four feet.”

῎Αναιμα πολλὰ τῶν ζῴων, καθόλου δὲ ὅσα πλείους πόδας ἔχουσι τῶν τεσσάρων.

6 “Fish do not have a throat[?]. For this reason, if a smaller fish is pursued by a bigger one, it pushes the stomach under the mouth [?]”

Οἱ ἰχθύες οὐκ ἔχουσι στόμαχον· διό, ἐὰν διώκηται ὁ ἐλάττων ὑπὸ μείζονος, ἄγει τὴν κοιλίαν ὑπὸ τὸ στόμα.

7 “Snakes have thirty ribs, and their eyes, if anyone strikes them, grow back again. The swallow’s qualities are similar.”

Οἱ ὄφεις πλευρὰς ἔχουσι τριάκοντα. καὶ τὰ ὄμματα αὐτῶν, ἐάν τις ἐκκεντήσῃ, πάλιν γίνονται, καθὰ καὶ τὰ τῶν χελιδόνων.

8 “The bones of a lion are so stiff that when they are struck often they burst into fire.”

Τοῦ λέοντος τὰ ὀστᾶ οὕτως εἰσὶ στερεά, ὥστε πολλάκις κοπτόμενα πῦρ ἐκλάμπειν.

Image result for medieval manuscript lion fire
British Library, Royal MS 12 C. xix, Folio 6r. Lion

Expect the Unexpected! Returning to Euripides’ “Ion” Online

Euripides, Ion 1510-1511

“May no one ever believe that anything is unexpected,
thanks to the events that are happening now.”

μηδεὶς δοκείτω μηδὲν ἀνθρώπων ποτὲ
ἄελπτον εἶναι πρὸς τὰ τυγχάνοντα νῦν.

Euripides, Ion 1311

“We will give pain to those who pained us”

λυπήσομέν τιν᾿ ὧν λελυπήμεσθ᾿ ὕπο

Our previous performance from June 17, 2020

This week, we return to Euripides’ Ion, a play which centers around Apollo’s rape of Creusa, her exposure of the child, and the events which bring about the reunion of mother and child outside the Delphic oracle. In and amidst this plot, we witness reflections on divine caprice, a woman’s sufferings, anxiety about foreign nobles and indigenous power, and deep interest in ritual places and the foundation myths of Athens. And, of course, we have politics and power: this play was performed during the Peloponnesian War, after Athens had suffered a terrible setback during the Sicilian Expedition.


Euripides, Ion 129-135

“Apollo, my work for you
Is noble as I honor the seat of your prophecy,
Toiling in front of your home.
Oh, to work as a slave for the gods
Not mortals!
I never get tired pushing through
Labor of such good name.”

Φοῖβε, σοὶ πρὸ δόμων λατρεύω,
τιμῶν μαντεῖον ἕδραν·
κλεινὸς δ᾿ ὁ πόνος μοι
θεοῖσιν δούλαν χέρ᾿ ἔχειν
οὐ θνατοῖς ἀλλ᾿ ἀθανάτοις·
εὐφάμους δὲ πόνους
μοχθεῖν οὐκ ἀποκάμνω.

Scenes (Using this script)

236-391 Ion, Creusa, Chorus
429-451 Ion
517-607 Ion, Xuthus, Chorus
1122-1228 Servant
1261-1444 Ion, Creusa, Chorus, Priestess

Euripides, Ion 247-254

“Stranger, your way is not uncultured,
That you come into wonder at my tears.
Now that I look upon this home of Apollo’s
I have recalled some ancient memory.
While I was here, my mind remained someplace else.
Miserable women. Miserable deeds by the gods!
What do I do? To what court of appeal can I turn
When I’m ruined by the injustice of those who rule us?”

ὦ ξένε, τὸ μὲν σὸν οὐκ ἀπαιδεύτως ἔχει
ἐς θαύματ᾿ ἐλθεῖν δακρύων ἐμῶν πέρι·
ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἰδοῦσα τούσδ᾿ Ἀπόλλωνος δόμους
μνήμην παλαιὰν ἀνεμετρησάμην τινά·
ἐκεῖσε τὸν νοῦν ἔσχον ἐνθάδ᾿ οὖσά περ.
ὦ τλήμονες γυναῖκες· ὦ τολμήματα
θεῶν. τί δῆτα; ποῖ δίκην ἀνοίσομεν,
εἰ τῶν κρατούντων ἀδικίαις ὀλούμεθα;


Hannah Barrie

Paul O’Mahony

Special Guests:  Nancy Felson

Direction: Paul O’Mahony

Posters: John Koelle

Technical, Moral, Administrative Support:  Allie Mabry, Janet Ozsolak, Helene Emeriaud, Sarah Scott, Keith DeStone

Euripides, Ion 1300

“You were trying to kill me because of fear of the future?”

κἄπειτα τοῦ μέλλειν μ᾿ ἀπέκτεινες φόβῳ;

Euripides, Ion 585-594

“Matters don’t have the same appearance
When seen from up close or from a distance.
I welcome this change of events,
Discovering you as my father. But hear me out.
They claim that some of the famous Athenians
Are native born to the soil itself, not immigrants.
I would suffer from two diseases among them,
As the bastard song of a foreign father
Because of this very insult, I would remain weak,
I would be the nothing son of nobodies.”

οὐ ταὐτὸν εἶδος φαίνεται τῶν πραγμάτων
πρόσωθεν ὄντων ἐγγύθεν θ᾿ ὁρωμένων.
ἐγὼ δὲ τὴν μὲν συμφορὰν ἀσπάζομαι,
πατέρα σ᾿ ἀνευρών· ὧν δὲ γιγνώσκω †πέρι†
ἄκουσον. εἶναί φασι τὰς αὐτόχθονας
κλεινὰς Ἀθήνας οὐκ ἐπείσακτον γένος,
ἵν᾿ ἐσπεσοῦμαι δύο νόσω κεκτημένος,
πατρός τ᾿ ἐπακτοῦ καὐτὸς ὢν νοθαγενής.
καὶ τοῦτ᾿ ἔχων τοὔνειδος, ἀσθενὴς μένων
<αὐτὸς τὸ> μηδὲν κοὐδένων κεκλήσομαι.

Euripides, Ion 1522-1527

“Look, mom, could it be that you slipped in that sickness
Which often afflicts maidens into hidden affairs
And then laid the blame on the good?
Did you try to flee my disgrace by saying
That you conceived me with Apollo when it really wasn’t a god?”

ὅρα σύ, μῆτερ, μὴ σφαλεῖσ᾿ ἃ παρθένοις
ἐγγίγνεται νοσήματ᾿ ἐς κρυπτοὺς γάμους
ἔπειτα τῷ θεῷ προστίθης τὴν αἰτίαν,
καὶ τοὐμὸν αἰσχρὸν ἀποφυγεῖν πειρωμένη
Φοίβῳ τεκεῖν με φῄς, τεκοῦσ᾿ οὐκ ἐκ θεοῦ.