Category: Courses

“Father of History” on the PR circuit

Herodotus and Robert Strassler’s new Landmark Herodotus took center stage yesterday on NPR’s “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” (program available in archive). No word on whether that inveterate Herodotus-hater Plutarch, author of “On the Malice of Herodotus”, was available for comment.


Overviews and Introductions

Oxford Classical Bibliography by K. S. Myers

Boyd, Barbara Weiden, ed. 2002. Brill’s companion to Ovid. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. (Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.01.34)

Hardie, Philip R., ed. 2002. The Cambridge companion to Ovid. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Knox, Peter E. 2012. A Companion to Ovid. Wiley-Blackwell.

Hardie, Philip, Alessandro Barchiesi, and Stephen Hinds. 1999. Ovidian transformations. Supplementary Volume 23. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Philological Society. (collection of important essays)

Holzberg, Niklas. 2002. Ovid: The poet and his work. Translated by G. M. Goshgarian. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Holzberg, Niklas. 1997. Playing with his life: Ovid’s autobiographical references. Lampas 30: 4–19.

Knox, Peter E., ed. 2006. Oxford readings in Ovid. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Myers, K. S. 1999. The metamorphosis of a poet: Recent work on Ovid. Journal of Roman Studies 89:190–204.



Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). 2004. P. Ovidi Nasonis Metamorphoses. Edited by R. J. Tarrant. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Authoritative Text


M. M. Innes (2006, prose); Martin (2004, verse with notes); D.A. Raeburn (2004, introduction by D. Feeney); A. Mandelbaum (1995, verse); D. R. Slavitt (1994, verse, in hexameters);  A. D. Melville (1987, verse with helpful notes);

Dryden et al. (1717, verse); A. Golding (1567, Shakespeare’s Met.)


Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). 1997. Ovid’s Metamorphoses Books 1–5. Edited by William Scovil Anderson. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. (Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.9.11)

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). 1972. Ovid’s Metamorphoses Books 6–10. Edited by William Scovil Anderson. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). 1979. Metamorphoses III. Edited by A. A. R. Henderson. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press.

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). 1983. Metamorphoses Book VIII. Edited by A. S. Hollis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). 2000. Metamorphoses Book XIII. Edited by Neil Hopkinson. Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). 2001. Metamorphoses Book XI. Edited by G. M. H. Murphy. London: Duckworth.

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). 2003. Metamorphoses Book I. Edited by Arthur G. Lee. London: Bristol Classical Press.

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). 2009. Metamorphoses Book XIV. Edited by K. Sara Myers. Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Overviews, Surveys, and Monographs

Due, O. S. 1974. Changing forms: Studies in the Metamorphoses of Ovid. Copenhagen, Denmark: Gyldendal. (good introduction)

Fantham, Elaine. 2004. Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. (good introduction)

Feeney, D. C. 1991. The gods in epic. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press: 188-249.

Galinsky, Karl. 1975. Ovid’s Metamorphoses: An introduction to the basic aspects. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. (introduction focused on poetic, aesthetic aspects of text)

Hardie, Philip. 2002. Ovid’s poetics of illusion. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hardie, Philip. 1990. Ovid’s Theban history: The first Anti-AeneidClassical Quarterly 40:224–235.

Hinds, Stephen E. 1987. The metamorphosis of Persephone: Ovid and the self-conscious muse. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 1987.

Hinds, Stephen E. 1998. Allusion and intertext: Roman literature and its contexts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Knox, Peter E. 1986. Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the traditions of Augustan poetry. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Philological Society.

Myers, K. Sara. 1994. Ovid’s causes: Cosmogony and aetiology in the Metamorphoses. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Solodow, Joseph B. 1988. The world of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Tissol, Garth. 1997. The face of nature: Wit, narrative, and cosmic origins in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wheeler, Stephen Michael. 1999. A discourse of wonders: Audience and performance in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Gender and Sexuality

Richlin, Amy. 1992. Reading Ovid’s rapes. In Pornography and representation in Greece and Rome. Edited by Amy Richlin, 158–179. New York: Oxford University Press.

Segal, C. P. 1998. Ovid’s metamorphic bodies: Art, gender, and violence in the Metamorphoses. Arion 5:9–41.


Brown, Sarah Annes. 1999. The metamorphosis of Ovid: From Chaucer to Ted Hughes. New York: St. Martin’s. (Scholia Review)

The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1990s

Text and Transmission

Richmond, John. 2002. Manuscript traditions and the transmission of Ovid’s works. In Brill’s companion to Ovid. Edited by Barbara Weiden Boyd, 443–483. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill.

Tarrant, R. J. 1983. Ovid. In Texts and Transmissions. Edited by L. D. Reynolds, 257–284. Oxford: Clarendon.

Syllabus of Activities

Week 1 (1.4): Introductions—Local Origins: Saturnine & Epitaphic Epigrams

Week 2 (9.11): Catullus, Neoteric (?), and Hellenistic Epigram

  • Latin: Catullus 69–91, Calvus 18 (Courtney p. 210)
    • If you don’t remember Calvus from the Catullus’ polymetrica, please take a look at Catull. 13, 50, and 53.
  • English: Greek Epigrams: Posidippus, Callimachus, and Posidonius (in Fain).
  • Scholarship: Livingstone-Nisbet, “Introduction: Rock, Paper, Scissors” and “The Inscriptional Beginnings of Literary Epigram” (2010), 1-47.
  • In-Classthe epigrams (?) of Cicero and Caesar.

The Plague! The (Athenian) Plague!

Modern science weighs in on the old debate about which disease afflicted the Athenians at the start of the Peloponnesian War. DNA tests on material extracted from skeletons found in a mass grave dating to 430 BCE point to… Typhoid Fever.

From the Journal of Infectious Diseases:

BACKGROUND: Until now, in the absence of direct microbiological evidence, the cause of the Plague of Athens has remained a matter of debate among scientists who have relied exclusively on Thucydides’ narrations to introduce several possible diagnoses. A mass burial pit, unearthed in the Kerameikos ancient cemetery of Athens and dated back to the time of the plague outbreak (around 430 BC), has provided the required skeletal material for the investigation of ancient microbial DNA.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the probable cause of the Plague of Athens.

METHOD: Dental pulp was our material of choice, since it has been proved to be an ideal DNA source of ancient septicemic microorganisms through its good vascularization, durability and natural sterility. RESULTS: Six DNA amplifications targeted at genomic parts of the agents of plague (Yersinia pestis), typhus (Rickettsia prowazekii), anthrax (Bacillus anthracis), tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis), cowpox (cowpox virus) and cat-scratch disease (Bartonella henselae) failed to yield any product in ‘suicide’ reactions of DNA samples isolated from three ancient teeth. On the seventh such attempt, DNA sequences of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi were identified providing clear evidence for the presence of that microorganism in the dental pulp of teeth recovered from the Kerameikos mass grave.

CONCLUSION: The results of this study clearly implicate typhoid fever as a probable cause of the Plague of Athens.

The symptoms of Typhoid Fever (from MedicineNet):

The incubation period is usually 1-2 weeks and the duration of the illness is about 4-6 weeks. The patient experiences:

  • poor appetite,
  • headaches,
  • generalized aches and pains,
  • fever,
  • lethargy,
  • [the CDC adds: “in some cases, patients have a rash of flat, rose-colored spots”]

Persons with typhoid fever usually have a sustained fever as high as 103 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (39 to 40 degrees Centigrade).

Chest congestion develops in many patients and abdominal pain and discomfort are common. The fever becomes constant. Improvement occurs in the third and fourth week in those without complications. About 10% of patients have recurrent symptoms (relapse) after feeling better for one to two weeks.

How does this compare with Thucydides’ description of the plague?

As a rule, however, there was no ostensible cause; but people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head, and redness and inflammation in the eyes, the inward parts, such as the throat or tongue, becoming bloody and emitting an unnatural and fetid breath. These symptoms were followed by sneezing and hoarseness, after which the pain soon reached the chest, and produced a hard cough. When it fixed in the stomach, it upset it; and discharges of bile of every kind named by physicians ensued, accompanied by very great distress. In most cases also an ineffectual retching followed, producing violent spasms, which in some cases ceased soon after, in others much later. Externally the body was not very hot to the touch, nor pale in its appearance, but reddish, livid, and breaking out into small pustules and ulcers. But internally it burned so that the patient could not bear to have on him clothing or linen even of the very lightest description; or indeed to be otherwise than stark naked. What they would have liked best would have been to throw themselves into cold water; as indeed was done by some of the neglected sick, who plunged into the rain-tanks in their agonies of unquenchable thirst; though it made no difference whether they drank little or much. Besides this, the miserable feeling of not being able to rest or sleep never ceased to torment them. The body meanwhile did not waste away so long as the distemper was at its height, but held out to a marvel against its ravages; so that when they succumbed, as in most cases, on the seventh or eighth day to the internal inflammation, they had still some strength in them. But if they passed this stage, and the disease descended further into the bowels, inducing a violent ulceration there accompanied by severe diarrhoea, this brought on a weakness which was generally fatal. For the disorder first settled in the head, ran its course from thence through the whole of the body, and, even where it did not prove mortal, it still left its mark on the extremities; for it settled in the privy parts, the fingers and the toes, and many escaped with the loss of these, some too with that of their eyes. Others again were seized with an entire loss of memory on their first recovery, and did not know either themselves or their friends (Thuc. 2. 48ff.).

Of course, just because these poor individuals died of Typhoid Fever during the Plague (thus the mass grave), the does not mean that the Plague was (only) the result of Typhoid. Note that Thucydides attributes all disease during the Plague Years to the Plague. I wonder if one cause was assigned to what, in fact, was a witch’s brew of diseases that assailed the population of Athens?

Word from Brown University about a new production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Flies, a retelling of Aeschylus’ Oresteia. They plan to take the play’s title a touch too literally:

Producers of the Jean-Paul Sartre play “The Flies” at Brown University will subject the audience to 40,000 fruit flies to bring to life the existentialist work about flies sent to plague the city of Argos in ancient Greece.
Production Workshop, the student-run theater producing the play, built a 10-foot-high by 16-foot by 22-foot “cage” of netting to surround the stage and about 70 audience members, and to keep the flies from infesting the theater.
“There’s a sense of containment and quarantine and pestilence, which ties in with the play very well,” said James Rutherford, a senior theater arts major who is directing the play. Read more »

Homer’s Wheel. of. Fortune.

Michael Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti posts several translations of Homer’s meditation on the vicissitudes of life in Odyssey 18.130-137. Among other insights, we can see how true Richard Bentley’s comment on Pope’s Iliad is: “it is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer.”

Homer, Odyssey 18.130-137 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):

Of all creatures that breathe and walk on the earth there is nothing
more helpless than a man is, of all that the earth fosters;
for he thinks that he will never suffer misfortune in future
days, while the gods grant him courage, and his knees have spring
in them. But when the blessed gods bring sad days upon him,
against his will he must suffer it with enduring spirit.
For the mind in men upon earth goes according to the fortunes
the Father of Gods and Men, day by day, bestows upon them.

The same, tr. William Cowper:

Earth nourishes, of all that breathe or creep,
No creature weak as man; for while the Gods
Grant him prosperity and health, no fear
Hath he, or thought, that he shall ever mourn;
But when the Gods with evils unforeseen
Smite him, he bears them with a grudging mind;
For such as the complexion of his lot
By the appointment of the Sire of all,
Such is the colour of the mind of man.

The same, tr. Alexander Pope:

Of all that breathes, or grovelling creeps on earth,
Most man in vain! calamitous by birth:
To-day, with power elate, in strength he blooms;
The haughty creature on that power presumes:
Anon from Heaven a sad reverse he feels:
Untaught to bear, ‘gainst Heaven the wretch rebels.
For man is changeful, as his bliss or woe!
Too high when prosperous, when distress’d too low.

[more translations]

Proverbium Diurnum

Stultum facit Fortuna quem vult perdere. (Publilius Syrus, Sententia 611)

pron = STOOL-toom FAH-kit fohr-TOO-nah kwem woolt PEHR-deh-reh.

Fortune makes him foolish whom she wishes to destroy.

Comment: I have addressed the double-edged meaning of “The Fool” here before…[more]

(via Bob Patrick’s Latin Proverb of the Day)

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