Category: Mythology

Romulus & Remus Podcast

This week’s “In Our Times” Podcast delves into the wonders and mysteries of Romulus and Remus:

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Romulus and Remus, the central figures of the foundation myth of Rome. According to tradition, the twins were abandoned by their parents as babies, but were saved by a she-wolf who found and nursed them. Romulus killed his brother after a vicious quarrel, and went on to found a city, which was named after him.


Marginalia 4.29.2012

From my own personal Mt. Olympus (aka my living room), let’s take a look at the new and notable in the world of antiquity on-line:

  • Sortes Vergilianae & Sibylline Oracle for iOS! “This app provides to you the same opportunity as the Romans, except now it’s truly random: press a button and you’ll be presented with one passage from the Aeneid or from the Sibylline Oracles. What does it mean? That’s for you to decide, but if you don’t like it just press the “burn it” button to get a new prophecy!”

  • Ovid’s Metamorphoses & Art History (via The Guardian): “The National Gallery is putting on its show Metamorphosis to celebrate the two great Titians it has purchased in partnership with the National Gallery of Scotland. Diana and Callisto and Diana and Actaeon both depict scenes from Ovid. But if Titian was the greatest visualiser of Ovid he had a lot of competition. Such marvels of art as Correggio’s Jupiter and Io, Michelangelo’s Fall of Phaethon, and Carravaggio’s Medusa all draw heat from Ovid’s imaginative fire. The exhibition Metamorphosis, an Olympic special tied in with new opera productions, involves works by contemporary British artists – including Chris Ofili and Mark Wallinger – that respond to Ovid’s myths. The gallery is also publishing newly commissioned poems after Ovid by writers who include Seamus Heaney….”
  • David Bianculli talks “I, Claudius” on the occasion of its 35th anniversary: “The miniseries boasts impressive performances from several key British actors. Patrick Stewart, long before Star Trek: The Next Generation, shows up here. So does John Hurt, as a memorably unhinged Caligula. And the women, including Sian Phillips as Livia and Sheila White as Messalina, are deadlier, and even more fascinating, than the men. John Hurt (Caligula) and Derek Jacobi (Claudius) square off in the miniseries I, Claudius.Except, that is, for Claudius himself. Played by Derek Jacobi, it’s a performance that spans wide-eyed youth and weary old age…”
  • A nifty collection of podcasts about ancient medicine (via Love of History Blog)
  • Taylor S. (BMC ’14) reviewed Anne Carson’s memorable performance at Haverford last week.

Felix Dies Natalis, Roma!

Rome turned 2,765 years young today!

birthday cupcake

Not an authentic Roman birthday treat.


But this is: Ovid describes the Parilia, the festival Romans celebrated to mark the founding of their city. There are cows jumping over fires… and quite possibly fratricide.

Tariq Ali rereads Hesiod’s Works and Days

This week in The Guardian, Tariq Ali muses on the wisdom of Hesiod, which ranges from the value of an honest day’s work to the importance of a clean pair of underwear:

As Greek economic problems intensify, it’s worth remembering the first economist, Hesiod, a poet whose Works and Days was written against the backdrop of agrarian crisis…

[Read more…]


Classics on the Big (and Small) Screen

After the success of “300” it was only a matter of time before more sword-and-sandal picts graced the silver (and small) screen.

First up, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief, based on the first of the popular series of fantasy books authored by Rick Riordan. The title is a bit of a tongue-twister, but the story seems promising–“Percy”‘s short from Perseus, don’t you know.

Speaking of Perseus… the remake of Clash of the Titans, with Sam Worthington as our intrepid hero and Liam Neeson as Zeus. If you aren’t already familiar with the myth, this effects-heaver trailer does little to enlighten you. That, along with the hackneyed tagline and what I think is a vague reference to the God of War video game franchise in the clip’s only dialogue, provides little to cause to be optimistic.

Then again, even if this movie is bad…it could, like its predecessor the Ray Harryhausen extravaganza, be oh. so. good:

Finally, on the small screen is a new series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

Betrayed by the Romans. Forced into slavery. Reborn as a Gladiator. The classic tale of the Republic’s most infamous rebel comes alive in the graphic and visceral new series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Torn from his homeland and the woman he loves, Spartacus is condemned to the brutal world of the arena where blood and death are primetime entertainment. But not all battles are fought upon the sands. Treachery, corruption, and the allure of sensual pleasures will constantly test Spartacus. To survive, he must become more than a man. More than a gladiator. He must become a legend.

Quick take on the trailer: Spartacus, cool. Lucy Lawless, good. Involvement of Sam Raimi, promising. The brother from the Mummy movies, um… good why not. The “300”-style cinematography, score, sex and gore? I wonder how the gimmick will wear over the course of a whole series. Will this be “Caligula” with better visuals (not a good thing), or “Rome” turned up to 11 (a great thing)? Since the show has already been renewed for a second season, I hope the slave revolt will factor in the story.

Visiting Troy

I just discovered (via rogueclassicism) this article in the New York Times on a visit to the site of ancient Troy.


As it happened, our two-week visit to Turkey afforded a perfect moment to indulge our Homeric idée fixe. The trek north on Turkey’s west coast permitted a brief Trojan fly-by during the drive from Pergamum to Gallipoli.

Read more »

Making Myth-istory

According to a new poll, it seems Britons are busy turning their storied history into myth and legend (via AFP):

LONDON (AFP) – Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll out Monday which showed that nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real. The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth.
And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up. [Read the rest of the story…]

I’m a bit skeptical of the findings, since such polls are susceptible to mischievous pranksters (“sure I believe in Snow White” *snicker snicker*). Nevertheless, the story remind us how we tend to mythologize stories and figures about which we have imprecise knowledge.

Lykaion: Cannibalistic Despot or Tourist Destination? Both!

Lykaion may be best known to students of myth as the cruel king of Arcadia, who liked to indulge in human sacrifice and cannibalism, and who so offended the gods that he provoked the near extermination of humanity.

But Mt. Lykaion is also one of the places where Zeus may have been born (Crete and Naxos are other candidates). And recent excavations by David Romano of the University of Pennsylvania have revealed Mt. Lykaion to be one of the oldest cult centers in ancient Greece.

What would surprise Pausanias—as it is surprising archaeologists—is how early that “beginning” actually may be. New pottery evidence from excavations by the Greek-American, interdisciplinary team of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project indicates that the ash altar—a cone of earth located atop the southern peak of Mt Lykaion where dedications were made in antiquity— was in use as early as 5,000 years ago—at least 1,000 years before the early Greeks began to worship the god Zeus.

Read the rest of the story…

Tori Amos, Goddess(es)

For her ninth album, “American Doll Posse”, singer/songwriter Tori Amos sought inspiration from Greek goddesses:

This time Amos has taken a unique approach to her music and has emerged with five alter ego’s – all of whom contribute to the album with their own distinct voices.

The quintet creates a compelling portrait of the role women play in today’s society, expressed on the album both musically and thematically. The five alter ego’s are representations of Tori, incarnating a number of the heroines and goddesses of Greek mythology.

Tori Amos said, “Once music started to dictate to me what the women were going to be I had to go and do the internal work and build their psyches, so I went to the Greek Pantheon because I thought people were more familiar with it, and then started to develop their stories,”

Through her research, Amos looked back to a time when the idea of females in all their different facets, were considered divine. Buried deep in ancient Greek history – she discovered what would become the foundations for her new group of confidants.

Read the rest of the article….

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