A Giant’s Strength for Editing Athenaeus

Mark Pattison, Diary of Casaubon:

“Those who suppose that to edit a classic is among the easiest of literary toils, and only a fit occupation for laborious dulness, can form no conception of what Casaubon accomplished. Those only who know that a perfectly good edition of a classic is among the rarest of triumphs which the literary Fasti have to record; that for the last three centuries we have been incessantly labouring at the Greek and Latin remains, and yet that the number which have been satisfactorily edited is fewer than some of the most popular of ancient authors who have been attempted the oftenest, as e.g. Horace, still awaits a competent expositor – those only can measure what a giant’s strength was required to cope with Athenaeus, in the state in which his remains existed in the time of Casaubon.”

Hymning the Praises of Women and Men: A Lost Singer in the Odyssey

Homer Odyssey 3. 265-72

“Shining Klytemnestra was resisting the shameful deed
Previously, for she had use of some good advice for her mind.
See, a man was there beside her, a singer whom Agamemnon
Ordered much to safeguard his wife when he went to Troy.
But when the fate of the gods was bound to overcome him,
Then [he*] packed off the singer to some lonely island
And left him there as food and booty for the birds
And he, willingly, took her willing to his own home”

ἡ δ’ ἦ τοι τὸ πρὶν μὲν ἀναίνετο ἔργον ἀεικές,
δῖα Κλυταιμνήστρη· φρεσὶ γὰρ κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσι·
πὰρ δ’ ἄρ’ ἔην καὶ ἀοιδὸς ἀνήρ, ᾧ πόλλ’ ἐπέτελλεν
᾿Ατρεΐδης Τροίηνδε κιὼν εἴρυσθαι ἄκοιτιν.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή μιν μοῖρα θεῶν ἐπέδησε δαμῆναι,
δὴ τότε τὸν μὲν ἀοιδὸν ἄγων ἐς νῆσον ἐρήμην
κάλλιπεν οἰωνοῖσιν ἕλωρ καὶ κύρμα γενέσθαι,
τὴν δ’ ἐθέλων ἐθέλουσαν ἀνήγαγεν ὅνδε δόμονδε.

*note how carefully the Homeric text leaves the subject of the action in doubt until the final line.

Schol. EM ad Od. 3.267

“In olden days, singers used to hold the position of philosopher, everyone used to consider them wise and they entrusted their kind to them to be educated. When gathering in festivals and to rest for many days, they used to listen to them if any famous or noble deed had happened. So, the singer who was left with Klytemnestra was trying to hinder wicked thoughts from happening by narrating the virtues of men and women. And she was acting prudently as long as that singer was present. Some people say that the singer did not have genitals, wrongly. Some named him Khariades, others call him Demodokos, others Glaukos.”

τὸ ἀρχαῖον οἱ ἀοιδοὶ φιλοσόφου τάξιν ἐπέσχον καὶ πάντες αὐτοῖς προσεῖχον ὡς σοφοῖς, καὶ παιδευθῆναι τούτοις παρεδίδοσαν τοὺς ἀναγκαίους· ἔν τε ταῖς ἑορταῖς ἔν τε ταῖς ἀναπαύσεσιν ἐπὶ πολλὰς ἡμέρας συλλεγόμενοι τούτων ἤκουον εἴ που γέγονεν ἐπιφανὲς ἢ καλὸν ἔργον. καὶ ὁ καταλειφθεὶς οὖν παρὰ τῇ Κλυταιμνήστρᾳ ᾠδὸς πονηρὰς ἐπινοίας ἐγγίνεσθαι ἐκώλυε, διηγούμενος ἀνδρῶν καὶ γυναικῶν ἀρετάς. καὶ ἕως τούτου ἐσωφρόνει ἕως αὐτῇ παρῆν οὗτος. τινὲς ἀοιδὸν τὸν μὴ αἰδοῖα ἔχοντα, κακῶς. τοῦτόν τινες Χαριάδην, οἱ δὲ Δημόδοκον καλοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ Γλαῦκον.

Woodcut illustration of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus murdering Agamemnon and their subsequent deaths at the hand of Orestes
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woodcut_illustration_of_Clytemnestra_and_Aegisthus_murdering_Agamemnon_and_their_subsequent_deaths_at_the_hand_of_Orestes_-_Penn_Provenance_Project.jpg

Schol MQV 3.267

“A singer was stationed with her too. For in ancient times, singers used to have the position of philosophers. Some people who know things badly report that he was a Eunuch”

συμπαρῆν γὰρ αὐτῇ καὶ ᾠδός. τὸ γὰρ ἀρχαῖον οἱ ᾠδοὶ φιλοσόφων τάξιν ἐπεῖχον. τινὲς δὲ κακῶς νοήσαντες τὸν εὐνοῦχον ἀπέδοσαν.

Schol. M. ad Od. 3.367

“There some people report he was a Eunuch from the alpha privative morios and aidoios for singer, that his genitals were removed.”

ἐνταῦθα δέ τινες ἀοιδὸν τὸν εὐνοῦον νοοῦσιν ἐκ τοῦ α στερητικοῦ μορίου καὶ τοῦ αἰδοίου, τὸν ἐστερη-μένον τῶν αἰδοίων.

Schol P. ad Od. 3.367

“Some say that the singers were tragedians. For the ancients treated these people with honor. And others say that the singer he mentions was a eunuch”

ἀοιδὸς] οἱ μὲν ἀοιδοὺς λέγουσι τοὺς τραγῳδούς. διὰ τιμῆς γὰρ οἱ παλαιοὶ τούτους ἦγον· οἱ δὲ …. φασὶν εἶναι εὐνοῦχον λέγοντα τὸν ἀοιδὸν εἶναι τῆς Κλυταιμνήστρας.

Schol. EHMQR Ad Od. 3.267

“Demetrius of Phalerum has as follows: “Menelaos, when he went with Odysseus to Delphi asked about the expedition which was about to happen against Troy. At that time, in fact, Kreon was running the nine-year contest of the Pythian games. The Spartan Demodokos won, a student of Automedon of Mycenae who was the first who composted the Battle of Amphritryon against the Teleboans and the Conflict of Kithairon and Helikon for whom the mountains in Boiotia are named. He was also a student of Perimedes the Argive who taught the Mycenean Automedes himself along with Likymnios the Bouprasian and Sinis along with Dôrieus, the Laconian Pharides and the Spartan Probolos.

At that time, Menelaos dedicated the expedition for Helen to Athena thanks to forethought. Agamemnon led Demodokos to Mycenae and ordered him to watch over Klytemnestra.

People used to honor singers excessively as teachers of the gods and other ancient acts of good men and they used to delight in the lyre beyond the other instruments. Klytemnestra clearly honored him—she didn’t have him murdered but instead ordered him to be exiled. Timolaus suggest that he was the brother of Phemios who accompanied Penelope to Ithaca to keep a watch over her. He sang for the suitors under compulsion.”

οὕτω Δημήτριος ὁ Φαληρεύς· Μενέλαος ἅμα τῷ ᾿Οδυσσεῖ ἐλθὼν εἰς Δελφοὺς τὸν θεὸν ἤρετο περὶ τῆς μελλούσης ἔσεσθαι εἰς ῎Ιλιον στρατείας. τότε δὴ καὶ τὸν ἐνναετηρικὸν τῶν Πυθίων ἀγῶνα ἀγωνοθετεῖ Κρέων, ἐνίκα δὲ Δημόδοκος Λάκων μαθητὴς Αὐτομήδους τοῦ Μυκηναίου, ὃς ἦν πρῶτος δι’ ἐπῶν γράψας τὴν ᾿Αμφιτρύωνος πρὸς Τηλεβόας μάχην καὶ τὴν ἔριν Κιθαιρῶνός τε καὶ ῾Ελικῶνος, ἀφ’ ὧν δὴ καὶ τὰ ἐν Βοιωτίᾳ ὄρη προσαγορεύεται· ἦν δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς μαθητὴς Περιμήδους ᾿Αργείου, ὃς ἐδίδαξεν αὐτόν τε τὸν Μυκηναῖον Αὐτομήδην, καὶ Λικύμνιον τὸν Βουπράσιον καὶ Σίνιν, καὶ τὸν Δωριέα, καὶ Φαρίδαν τὸν Λάκωνα, καὶ Πρόβολον τὸν Σπαρτιάτην. τότε δὴ Μενέλαος τῇ προνοίᾳ τῆς ῾Ελένης ἀνέθηκεν ὅρμον ᾿Αθηνᾷ. τὸν δὲ Δημόδοκον εἰς Μυκήνας λαβὼν ᾿Αγαμέμνων ἔταξε τὴν Κλυταιμνήστραν τηρεῖν. ἐτίμων δὲ λίαν τοὺς ᾠδοὺς ὡς διδασκάλους τῶν τε θείων καὶ παλαιῶν ἀνδραγαθημάτων, καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ὀργάνων πλέον τὴν λύραν ἠγάπων. δηλοῖ δὲ καὶ Κλυταιμνήστρα τὴν εἰς αὐτὸν τιμήν· οὐ γὰρ φονεύειν, ἀλλ’ ἀφορίζειν αὐτὸν ἐκέλευσε. Τιμόλαος δὲ ἀδελφὸν αὐτόν φησιν εἶναι Φημίου, ὃν ἀκολουθῆσαι τῇ Πηνελόπῃ εἰς ᾿Ιθάκην πρὸς παραφυλακὴν αὐτῆς· διὸ καὶ βίᾳ τοῖς μνηστῆρσιν ᾄδει.

Schol. EQ ad. Od. 3.367

“The music of rhapsodes applied so much to political matters that people report that the city of Sparta used it especially to encourage like-mindedness and preservation of the customs. They also say that once the Pythia, when a disturbance developed, told people to listen a Lesbian song and stop their rivalry.”

τοσοῦτον δὲ καὶ πρὸς τὰ πολιτικὰ διέτεινεν ἡ τῶν κιθαρῳδῶν μουσικὴ ὡς τῶν Σπαρτιατῶν τὴν πόλιν ὠφελεῖσθαι λέγουσιν ὑπὸ τούτων τῶν ἀνδρῶν τὰ μέγιστα καὶ πρὸς ὁμόνοιαν καὶ πρὸς τὴν τῶν νόμων φυλακήν. ὡς καὶ τὴν Πυθὼ, αὐτόθι φυομένης ταραχῆς, εἰπεῖν, τὸν Λέσβιον ᾠδὸν ἀκούειν καὶ παύσασθαι τῆς φιλονεικίας. ὃ καὶ γέγονεν. E.Q.

How We Spend Our Days–Do Nothing Rather Than Something Useless

Pliny, Letters 9 To Minucius Fundanus

“It is amazing how the schedule is or seems on individual days in the city when they all blend together. If you ask anyone “what did you do today?” He may say, “I went to a toga-ceremony, an engagement, or a marriage. I was the witness at a will-signing, or at court as a witness or supporter.” These things which you do seem necessary on the day that you do them but empty if you remember that you have done the same kind of things every day and they seem even sillier if you consider them when you are away.

Then the realization comes over you: “How many days have I wasted in trivial pursuits!” This occurs to me whenever I am reading or writing or taking some time to exercise, to keep my mind fit for my work, at my Laurentum. I hear nothing and I say nothing which later on it hurts me that I said or heard. No one troubles me with evil rumors. I find no one to blame but myself when I write with too little ease. I am troubled by no hope, no fear; I am disrupted by no gossip. I speak only with myself and my little books.

What a fine and sincere life! What sweet and honest leisure, finer than nearly any business at all. The sea, the beach, my own true and private museum—how much you discover for me, how much you have told me!

Take the first chance you can to leave that noise, the empty conversation, and so many useless tasks and dedicate yourself to studies or relaxing. For our friend Atilius put it most elegantly and intelligently when he said “it is better to do engage in leisure than to do nothing.”

Plinius Minicio Fundano Suo S.

1Mirum est quam singulis diebus in urbe ratio aut constet aut constare videatur, pluribus iunctisque

Nam si quem interroges “Hodie quid egisti?,” respondeat: “Officio togae virilis interfui, sponsalia aut nuptias frequentavi, ille me ad signandum testamentum, ille in advocationem, ille in 3 consilium rogavit.” Haec quo die feceris, necessaria, eadem, si cotidie fecisse te reputes, inania videntur, multo magis cum secesseris. Tunc enim subit recordatio: “Quot dies quam frigidis rebus absumpsi!” 4 Quod evenit mihi, postquam in Laurentino meo aut lego aliquid aut scribo aut etiam corpori vaco, cuius fulturis animus sustinetur. Nihil audio quod audisse, nihil dico quod dixisse paeniteat; nemo apud me quemquam sinistris sermonibus carpit, neminem ipse reprehendo, nisi tamen me cum parum commode scribo; nulla spe nullo timore sollicitor, nullis rumoribus inquietor: mecum tantum et cum libellis loquor. O rectam sinceramque vitam! O dulce otium honestumque ac paene omni negotio pulchrius! O mare, o litus, verum secretumque μουσεῖον, quam multa invenitis, quam multa dictatis! 7 Proinde tu quoque strepitum istum inanemque discursum et multum ineptos labores, ut primum fuerit occasio, relinque teque studiis vel otio trade. 8 Satius est enim, ut Atilius noster eruditissime simul et facetissime dixit, otiosum esse quam nihil agere. Vale.

What’s Your Writing Like Without Quotations?

Diogenes Laertius, Chrysippos  7.7.180

“Apollodorus the Athenian in his Summary of Beliefs, because he wants to demonstrate that the works of Epicurus were written with personal force and were prepared with far fewer quotations than the books of Chrysippos, says in this very wording: “if the books of [Chrysippos] were scrubbed of all the superfluous quotations, only empty paper would be left to him.”

So much for Apollodorus.  The old women who used to sit next to [Chrysippos], according to Diocles, used to claim that he wrote 500 lines each day. Hekatôn reports that he turned to philosophy because the property left to him by his father was confiscated to the royal treasury.”

Καὶ Ἀπολλόδωρος δ᾿ ὁ Ἀθηναῖος ἐν τῇ Συναγωγῇ τῶν δογμάτων, βουλόμενος παριστάνειν ὅτι τὰ Ἐπικούρου οἰκείᾳ δυνάμει γεγραμμένα καὶ ἀπαράθετα ὄντα μυρίῳ πλείω ἐστὶ τῶν Χρυσίππου βιβλίων, φησὶν οὕτως αὐτῇ τῇ λέξει· “εἰ γάρ τις ἀφέλοι τῶν Χρυσίππου βιβλίων ὅσ᾿ ἀλλότρια παρατέθειται, κενὸς αὐτῷ ὁ χάρτης καταλελείψεται.” καὶ ταῦτα μὲν Ἀπολλόδωρος. ἡ δὲ παρεδρεύουσα πρεσβῦτις αὐτῷ, ὥς φησι Διοκλῆς, ἔλεγεν ὡς πεντακοσίους γράφοι στίχους ἡμερησίους. Ἑκάτων δέ φησιν ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν, τῆς οὐσίας αὐτοῦ τῆς πατρῴας εἰς τὸ βασιλικὸν ἀναληφθείσης.

25909_2[1]
Hedgehog number 2,  British Library, MS Egerton 1121, f. 44v.

Pythagorean Self-Invention

Scholion to Sophocles Electra 62.2

“Pythagoras shut himself in a hole in the ground and told his mother to tell people that he was dead. After that, once he reappeared again later, he was telling fantastic tales of reincarnation and the people Hades, explaining to the living about the matters of the dead. From these stories, he created that kind of repute for himself that, before the Trojan War, he was Aithalidês the son of Hermes and then Euphorbos, and then Hermotimos of Samos, then Delian Pythios and after all of them, Pythagoras.”

…Πυθαγόρας καθείρξας ἑαυτὸν ἐν ὑπογείῳ λογοποιεῖν ἐκέλευσε τὴν μητέρα, ὡς ἄρα τεθνηκὼς εἴη. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐπιφανεὶς περὶ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ τῶν καθ’ ᾅδου τινὰ ἐτερατεύετο, διηγούμενος πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντας περὶ τῶν οἰκείων, οἷς ἐν ᾅδου συντετυχηκέναι ἔλεγεν. ἐξ ὧν τοιαύτην ἑαυτῷ δόξαν περιέθηκεν, ὡς πρὸ μὲν τῶν Τρωϊκῶν Αἰθαλίδης ὢν ὁ Ἑρμοῦ, εἶτα Εὔφορβος, εἶτα Ἑρμότιμος Σάμιος, εἶτα Πύθιος Δήλιος, εἶτα ἐπὶ πᾶσι Πυθαγόρας.Monday

Filling Up the Heart

Homer Iliad, 1.517

“And [glaring greatly] cloud-gathering Zeus addressed her”

1.517 Τὴν δὲ μέγ’ ὀχθήσας προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς·

Schol. bT ad Il. 1.517 ex

“This is from filling the spirit/heart up to the top, from the word [river banks]. Or, it is from the word “burden”, the form “overburdened” which is a form of the aorist passive participle, as okhthêsas is.

ex. ὀχθήσας: εἰς ὕψος ἐπάρας τὸν θυμόν, παρὰ τοὺς ὄχθους. ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἄχθος ἀχθήσας, ὅ ἐστιν ἀχθεσθείς, καὶ ὀχθήσας

There is, of course, at least one article about this:

Holoka, James P. “”Looking Darkly” (ϒΠΟΔΡΑΙΔΩ&# X039D;): Reflections on Status and Decorum in Homer.” Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-) 113 (1983): 1-16. doi:10.2307/283999.

looking darkly

Later, Holoka concludes:

Looking darkly 2

Add/Drop/Keep: a Classics Conversation

What Would You Add/Drop/Change/Keep the Same about “Classics”?

Classics Ph.D student Ethan Ganesh Warren and associate professor Nandini Pandey recently spoke with the SCS Blog, at the invitation of AAACC co-founder Chris Waldo, about their experiences as South Asians in ancient Mediterranean studies. They share with Sententiae Antiquae the second half of their conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, about things they’d keep or change about “classics” — that name itself, though used throughout, being one obvious candidate.

Nandini: I was going to ask if you wanted to play a little game with me. I do this one midterm evaluation that asks every student to pick one thing they’d add to your course, one thing they’d drop, one thing they’d change, and one thing they’d keep the same. And I wondered if we could do that for “classics” as a field right now. What would we add that isn’t already happening?

Ethan: One thing that I would like to see is more courses that cover broader topics in antiquity, [like one we teach at UT-Austin] called “The Ancient Mediterranean World.” The first thing we talk about is how the idea of “the West” or “the Mediterranean” is extremely problematic because that spans multiple continents and multiple climates and multiple cultures … from Babylon, Sumer, Egypt, Israel, all the way up until Greece and Rome. And we end up forming links between all of those cultures. I think courses that help you see similarities and share experiences between cultures are super cool and underutilized in colleges in general.   

Nandini: I love that. And I would add to your “add” that I would really love more training in grad school or at other levels to prepare us to do that kind of teaching [in keeping with recent interest in global antiquities]. I know it’s intimidating for any of us, after the depth of training we receive in a couple cultures, to branch out and feel like amateurs. I think it’s actually okay to be an amateur; I wish that we would embrace the fact that we’re always learning and we don’t need to stay forever within our dissertation fields. But I would love serious training on those cultural interactions really emphasized as part of the curriculum instead of [treated as] a throwaway option. [The same goes for interactions between antiquity and the present.] My students always love when we add some thought to the modern world — conversations about cultural interactions or appropriations or intersectionality with a classical twist. So I find that using Eidolon articles or bringing up modern angles is a great way to start or end discussion [that could also be better modelled in graduate school]. 

<We rave about Antigone in Ferguson and the brilliant discussions it’s generated in our classrooms, then move on to what we’d drop.>

Ethan: One thing I would drop is the idea that you need a fully complete resume to get into graduate school. And what I mean by that is a lot of professors, when a student comes to them with an interest in graduate school in classics, say, “Okay, you need four years of one language, three years of another. You need experience in this and this. … And it would also help to know either French or German or Italian.” And that can be severely limiting to students who didn’t have access to that sort of thing in high school. … If you put all of these qualifiers in, then it’s frankly impossible for a student who comes into college without any knowledge or practice in classics to go to graduate school … and become a professor or be a part of the field, right? And that can be severely limiting and it’s frankly not true. I mean, I was lucky to have a lot of high school experience in Latin, but I didn’t take any classics courses my freshman year … by the time I was doing advanced Greek, I was a second-semester junior. I didn’t have any German or French. And I got into a good program out of undergrad because I worked hard and I had a lot of confidence in myself and I had people tell me that I could do this — but I don’t think everyone has that. A lot of places, professors tend to gate-keep the field, whether intentionally or unintentionally. 

Nandini: And even your saying that you “only” had a certain amount of Greek by your junior year is already amazing, right? Many people, especially ones who fall in love with classics late in their college career, might not have access to even one Greek class — but they could have so much to bring to the field. So I fully endorse that and I want to add for the record that you may have more Latin right now than I did by the time I became a professor. <They laugh; Nandini attended a public high school with no Latin program and stumbled into classics as an undergraduate.> But there’s a kind of virtue in coming to the field from a background that wasn’t about rigorous language training from the very beginning. I think that actually you sometimes have more insights or you can be a little more creative in your outlook. 

So I totally agree with you and I would add, as a corollary, that I’d love to change our ideas of what expertise looks like, but also drop the expectation of total comprehensive synthetic knowledge of everything ever written on a particular author. Which is something that [we faculty often] perpetuate with the way that we do grad school reading lists and design exams and [compose] footnotes that last pages. It creates so much fear and intimidation. I mean, if you’re a Vergil scholar like me and you feel you need to read every one of the hundred thousand things ever written about a particular passage, you would never write a word. So I think that we need to start modifying that culture for sure. 

Ethan: Also, to add onto that, letting students know that it’s okay to skim articles. Because I think this is one of the dirty secrets of academia, especially when you first get into graduate school. You have a thousand lines of Latin to read for one class, plus five or six articles and you’re not going to be able to physically do that with two or three other classes. And I think a lot of professors try and keep the secret that people skim … and that’s okay. You don’t have to read every single word of an article. If you can understand what the author is doing, the logic they’re using, and at least some of the references they’re making or some of the source material they’re citing, that’s good. And that’s especially good for a college student.

Nandini: Absolutely. And there’s this old ethos, or maybe it’s more an aesthetic, where [professors] would cultivate the aura of somebody who has completely memorized the entire classical corpus. They would sit in the front at lectures and trot out verbatim citations in the original language. There is something incredibly cool and wonderful about that and I love many of those people who can do that. But for a long time, that was what I thought was the only way to be good at this field. And the truth is that in our information age, where we can instantly call up any article or look up any text, that kind of memorization expertise is getting not outdated but replicated. Because as you say, it’s more important to know how to read than to have fully memorized every single thing, because you can always [look them up if you need]. Or if you have the skill set of designing a good argument and understanding where it needs evidence, and understanding how to critique the scholarship — if you have all that, that’s actually much more important than having a bunch of bibliography at the tip of your tongue. 

Ethan: One thing we would change — do you want to go first on this one? 

Nandini: I think this current digital age allows a lot more potential for conversations and collaborations across institutions. I’ve gotten so much during the pandemic from chatting with other BIPOC classicists or grad students at different programs than mine [often while] giving visiting talks from my living room. I really love the ability to move around so freely in terms of conversations and support networks. And so I guess I would just keep going in that direction. I think it’s really healthy [that WCC, AAACC, and other organizations] are building mentorship relationships that reach beyond your specific department. Because in some of my darkest times as an academic, when I felt bullied or harassed — and believe me, this happens in grad school, but it keeps happening; getting a job is not the end, getting tenure is not the end of microaggressions or gatekeeping — in those situations, it’s having friends outside of my institution that has really saved me. And I would wish that for anybody else in this field. 

[Academia] can be very isolating, and there’s this false perception that everyone gets it except for you — that they all know what they’re doing and they’re all understanding that article or writing that paper perfectly on the first try. I think that we need to make [classics] a less lonely endeavor — we need to make it much more supportive, much more sociable. And we need to break those little monopolies on authority and power that are the academic department, and reward and compensate the time that people spend on [building relationships and support structures that cross institutional boundaries].  

Ethan:  Bouncing off of that … another thing I would change is broadening the requirements for the [undergraduate] major. So not necessarily saying, you need this many hours of Latin and this many hours of Greek, and this and that specific class. Because while it’s definitely helpful and while that could make you a potentially attractive candidate to graduate school, there are a lot of people who know [canonical authors] like Ovid and Vergil really well … People who are interested in something different like bioarchaeology or digital humanities are also super attractive to graduate school. … And that could be beneficial because it helps students develop skills to be competitive in and get jobs outside of academia too. Because if we’re trying to get students to come and get Ph.Ds in classics, then promise them all tenure-track jobs afterwards, then we’re kidding ourselves and them. So developing skills that can be attractive in other fields and other endeavors after the Ph.D is something that I would like to see.

Nandini: Absolutely — there’s no categorical difference between academic and “alt-ac” skills. There never has been nor is it healthy to act as though there is. We need to make sure that graduate school is always helping people develop skills for a [range of future job possibilities]. And we should start welcoming and rewarding different kinds of output … than just the standard dissertation. There’s this standard format that frankly is not even a book — [most dissertations] require years to become good books. We could encourage writing that’s a little less formulaic, a little less self-credentialing and boring, and start helping [grad students] make products that people [outside our narrow band of academia] actually want to read or use. We can reward more public-facing work, but also applied projects like digital humanities or commentaries or pedagogical projects or art installations or programs that are aimed at bringing more diverse students into classics. I think all of those things should count as end goals of your time in a Ph.D program … because obviously the model that we have is not working for all but a very few. 

Last question — what would you keep the same? 

Ethan: One thing I’d keep the same is the growth in discussions like this. Because as you said, for the longest time, [grad school was considered] this pipeline toward a job in academia … but that’s not realistic [for all]. That’s not saying that you shouldn’t pursue that goal, but you should also know about other options available to you. And I think this growing conversation has been super beneficial for graduates — it’s definitely been beneficial for me.

Nandini: I couldn’t agree more. And my answer for “what I would keep the same” is you. I just want to ring-structure back to the email that you sent me all those years ago [when you read my 2018 Eidolon piece about diversity in classics]. That really helped me at a time when I was feeling very isolated in a red state after the Trump election. I started writing publicly because I didn’t know what else to do with my time and frankly, digging deep into footnotes and spending time in the library on the commentaries started to feel less fulfilling intrinsically. I needed to figure out a way to reach out and reach more people. And so I started writing for Eidolon in a really dark place, but I had no anticipation of how much uplift I would get from people like you and how fulfilling it is now for me to watch you grow and change and do the great work you’re doing — and have this wonderful conversation with you. So thank you very much. 

Ethan: When I encountered your article, I was also in a dark place. I was interning and we had just had a lecture where I had been singled out by someone. They had later asked me where I was from and when I told them Wisconsin, they did the classic, “Oh, well, where’s your family from?” It was a stressful time because I had been getting that a lot. And I read your article and feeling that someone understood what I was going through really helped me continue on in the field. So thank you for that.

Nandini: And turning back to ancient thought: to know that other people have dealt with [these questions of identity and belonging and path-finding] before, even if they didn’t look exactly like us — that gives me a sense of radical continuity and compassion across cultures and across generations and across space now too. So here’s to many more such conversations. 

Relief found in Neumagen near Trier, a teacher with three discipuli (180-185 AD)

Countless Mixtures Incomplete: Introducing Pasts Imperfect

“When virtue is cast off into leisure without action it is a shapeless and imperfect good.”
sic imperfectum ac languidum bonum est in otium sine actu proiecta virtus
Seneca, De Otio 6.3
Today is the release of the first column in a series called Pasts Imperfecta partnership with the LA Review of Books, edited by Sarah E. Bond, Nandini Pandey, and Joel Christensen (and more to come, but see this thread). It is part of a network of publications  that hat explore the literature, material culture, reception, art, and pop culture within a global antiquity. Sign up here for the newsletter and more information. Sarah, Nandini, and Joel collaborated on this post.

Appion in Ps.-Clement, Homilies, 6.3.4

Elena, ekkolapsis (ἐκκόλαψις) la schiusa dell’uovo, Museo archeologico nazionale di Metaponto. In calcare, V sec. a.C.

“…the egg that Orpheus claims was created, projected from the boundless matter, was born like this: the quadruple matter is alive and all of the endless deep flows eternally but it moves in an unclear war, pouring forth here and there endless incomplete mixtures from one time to another. For this reason, it pulls them back too and then opens wide as if for the birth of a creature that cannot be bound.”

ὅπερ Ὀρφεὺς ᾠὸν λέγει γενητόν, ἐξ ἀπείρου τῆς ὕλης προβεβλημένον, γεγονὸς δὲ οὕτω· τῆς τετραγενοῦς ὕλης ἐμψύχου οὔσης, καὶ ὅλου ἀπείρου τινὸς βυθοῦ ἀεὶ ῥέοντος, καὶ ἀκρίτως φερομένου, καὶ μυρίας ἀτελεῖς κράσεις ἄλλοτε ἄλλως ἐπαναχέοντος, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο αὐτὰς ἀναλύοντος τῇ ἀταξίᾳ, καὶ κεχηνότος ὡς εἰς γένεσιν ζῴου δεθῆναι μὴ δυναμένου…

The poet and classicist Anne Carson has an essay that sticks like maple syrup to your subconscious, called “Essay on What I Think About Most.” She begins the poem by addressing the idea of the error and what we can learn from it by dissecting a bit of poetry from Alcman of Sparta, a Greek lyric poet from the 7th century BCE.

ὥρας δ᾿ ἔσηκε τρεῖς, θέρος
καὶ χεῖμα κὠπώραν τρίταν
καὶ τέτρατον τὸ ϝῆρ, ὅκα
σάλλει μέν, ἐσθίην δ᾿ ἄδαν
οὐκ ἔστι. Athenaeus 416d

[made?] three seasons, summer
and winter and autumn third
and fourth spring when
there is blooming but to eat enough
is not (trans. Carson)

Carson notes that the verb in Alcman’s laconic rumination on hunger seems to have no subject. She addresses whether this was a grammatical mistake caused by transmission and fragmentation; a way modern philologists can scrub away “errors” of the past. “But as you know, the chief aim of philology,” she says, “is to reduce all textual delight / to an accident of history. And I am uneasy with any claim to know exactly / what a poet means to say. So let’s leave the question mark there “

The lack of any punctuation is the kicker there. The absence does more work than any ellipsis or period ever could. Carson demonstrates how, for her, Alcman “sidesteps fear, anxiety, shame, remorse” connected to mistakes in order to engage with a truth:

“The fact of the matter for humans is imperfection.”

And that is in part what the first column of Pasts Imperfect argues for in addressing the construction, impact, and harm of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth: the need to embrace the mess and variants of the past. To do this, we must also situate the “classical” Mediterranean within a global antiquity.

What is Pasts Imperfect? It is a column and a space for commentary, reviews, essays, reflections, statements, and any other words needed to help us negotiate between the past and our present world. We talk about pasts because antiquity isn’t just one land, timeline, or narrative; it is multiple and multiplied by the perspectives we bring to bear on it. Our Pasts are not just Greek, Roman, and Mediterranean; they are not just elite, white, and male. The past includes these people and perspectives, but also those who were silenced or left behind: the people, the languages, and the histories in or beyond the margins.

Imperfect is about value and aspect. We acknowledge that the past is far from perfect and we study antiquity to help us understand ourselves and the causes of things, not to render fictive, to emulate, or to praise simply because something has been praised before. To be human is to be imperfect; to love as a human is to love imperfectly. Our studies of the past and ourselves must honor and inhabit such complexities.

Imperfect is also about incompletion. We see the study of the past as a process that is ongoing and never truly done: each generation, each embodied person, each new perspective contributes to challenging what we think we know about what has come before.

Pasts Imperfect seeks to bring critical and transparently progressive reflections and scholarship on antiquity to a wider audience. It is a column, a space, and a developing network for those who want to engage in challenging discussions about antiquity, its construction and reception in scholarship, and its impact on the modern world. As our editorial college and paid writer-network begins to expand and to take pitches, we hope to venture into a more global understanding of the past while also making space for imperfection.

Plutarch, On the Affection Offspring (Moralia 496b)

“There is nothing so imperfect, helpless, naked, formless, and unclean as a human being glimpsed at the moment of birth, someone to whom nature has not even given a clear path to the light.”

οὐδὲν γάρ ἐστιν οὕτως ἀτελὲς οὐδ᾿ ἄπορον οὐδὲ γυμνὸν οὐδ᾿ ἄμορφον οὐδὲ μιαρὸν ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἐν γοναῖς ὁρώμενος· ᾧ μόνῳ σχεδὸν οὐδὲ καθαρὰν ἔδωκεν εἰς φῶς ὁδὸν ἡ φύσις…

Please reach out to anyone of the editors if you want to collaborate or pitch a story idea. We are working to help place essays in several different venues. See also the Public Books Antiquities Section, edited by Stephanie Wong and Sarah E. Bond and sign up for the newsletter to learn more.

File:Fragment de mosaique Ino (Dotô), découverte dans une villa romaine de Saint-Rustice en 1833, IVè ou Vè siècle, MSR, Musée Saint-Raymond (7221368224).jpg
Fragment de mosaique : Ino (Dotô), découverte dans une villa romaine de Saint-Rustice en 1833, IVè ou Vè siècle, MSR, Musée Saint-Raymond

Yes to Vergil, No to Lucan

J.E. Sandys, Harvard Lectures on the Revival of Learning:

“Cicero and Virgil became the principal text-books of the Revival of Learning. Petrarch describes them in one of his poems as the ‘two eyes’ of his discourse. In his very boyhood he had been smitten with the charm of Virgil, and, even in his old age, he was still haunted by the mediaeval tradition of the allegorical significance of the Aeneid. But, unlike the mediaeval admirers of Virgil, he does not regard the Latin poet as a mysteriously distant and supernatural being; he finds in him a friend, and he is even candid enough to criticise him. Under his influence the Aeneid was accepted as the sole model that was worthy of imitation by the epic poets of the succeeding age. A German critic regards this result with regret, a regret that few, if any, will share; nor is it easy to believe that any scholar would really have preferred seeing Petrarch throw the weight of his example on to the side of any other Latin epic poet, such as Lucan.”

Image result for petrarch

Papyrology and Its Discontents

E.H. Gombrich, The Embattled Humanities:

Some time ago I was privileged to be seated during a social function next to a cabinet minister. Naturally I did not want to spare him my worries, but I cut no ice. He did not see, was his curt response, why the universities should not make sacrifices when everybody else was asked to do so. I gave up. I knew I would not be able to make him see that he was talking nonsense. It is not the universities which are asked to make a sacrifice but those who would have benefited from attending them.

We all know the name of the Moloch on whose altar they must be immolated; he is called ‘Society.’ During one of our periodic student troubles an attractive and eager girl came to interview me for a student paper; when I mentioned the danger – luckily averted – of a post in papyrology* being frozen in my university she replied earnestly, ‘But what if society does not want papyrology?’ What indeed? Admittedly it is hard to imagine how society can make its will in such matters known. Through a referendum? Through rallies in Trafalgar Square or through party manifestos? But how can the voter be made to see that this arcane subject may at any moment transform the picture of our cultural heritage as it has transformed it in the past? A book on political science which fails to take cognizance of Aristotle’s treatise on the Constitution of Athens found in a papyrus is as incomplete as is an account of European comedy that fails to discuss the recently deciphered fragments from Menander, the great playwright who stands at the fountainhead of this tradition.

*Note: To underscore Gombrich’s point, WordPress doesn’t even recognize papyrology as a word.