Guide to the Classics: Sappho, a Poet in Fragments

Fresco showing a woman called Sappho holding writing implements from Pompeii Naples National Archaeological Museum. Wikimedia Commons Sappho sang of desire, passion and love – mostly directed towards women. As new fragments of her work are found, a fuller picture of her is emerging, but she remains themost mysterious of ancient poets. By Dr. Marguerite Johnson / 03.29.2017 Associate Professor of Ancient History and Classical Languages University[…]

Guide to the Classics: Virgil’s Aeneid

Virgil reads the Aeneid to Octavia and Augustus. Angelica Kauffmann/Hermitage/Wikimedia Commons Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid documents the founding of Rome by a Trojan hero. As with other ancient epics, our hero has to remain resolute in the face of significant divine hostility. By Dr. Chris Mackie / 10.23.2017 Professor of Classics La Trobe University The Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil is an epic poem in[…]

Medea Is as Relevant Today as It Was in Ancient Greece

Helen McCrory as Medea. Richard Hubert Smith/National Theatre By Dr. Laura Swift / 07.23.2014 Lecturer in Classical Studies The Open University Often when ancient plays are updated to a modern setting it can feel unsatisfactory. Frequently there are elements that grate or become implausible, and you’re left feeling that the director is trying too hard to make the[…]

Which Hero Would You Choose for Your Coffin?

The limestone relief on this Roman sarcophagus, c. AD 190, depicts the Triumph of Dionysus. / Walters Art Museum A guide to three heroes of antiquity who were ornaments of choice for funerary art. By Eric Bruehl / 04.25.2015 Senior Project Specialist, Education Department J. Paul Getty Museum When it came to decorating their coffins, the ancient Greeks and[…]

Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, and Why Your Kids Need to Know Classical Culture

A family visiting the Getty Villa explores ancient art, history, and mythology through frescoes from the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum. The influence of classical mythology lives on in our culture. Here are some tips for exploring this subject with kids. By Erin Branham / 10.07.2012 Education Specialist for Family Programs Getty Villa Teaching kids[…]

‘Iphigenia in Aulis’ on the Stage and in Art

Sandra Marquez as Clytemnestra and Stephanie Andrea Barron as Iphigenia in the Court Theater production of Euripides’s Iphigenia in Aulis at the Getty Villa, September 7–30, 2017. Photo: Joe Mazza The tragic story of sacrifice resonated across ancient Greece and Rome, where art provides evidence of the play’s enduring appeal. By Dr. Mary Louise Hart / 09.14.2017 Associate Curator[…]

A Lasting War: Representing Troy in Ancient Greece and Medieval Europe

The Sack of Troy: A warrior kills Astyanax, son of Hektor, dealing the final blow to the Trojan dynasty. Image: Detail from a Water Jar with the Sack of Troy (Iliupersis), Greek, about 520–500 B.C. Black-figured hydria attributed to the Leagros Group. Terracotta. Staatliche Antikensammlung und Glyptothek München Both medieval illuminators and Greek vase-painters represented the Trojan[…]

Thinking about Sisyphus (Or, the Afterlife with Some Rock ‘n’ Roll)

Detail of Colossal Krater from Altamura, about 350 B.C., Greek, made in Apulia, South Italy. Terracotta, 63 in. high x 35 7/16 in. diam. National Archaeological Museum of Naples, 81666. By permission of the Italian Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Tourism. National Archaeological Museum of Naples – Conservation and Restoration Laboratory The eternal suffering of Sisyphus,[…]

The Hero as Savior in Classical Literature and Mythology

Triumphant Achilles dragging Hector’s lifeless body in front of the Gates of Troy. (From a panoramic fresco on the upper level of the main hall of the Achilleion) / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of sōzein and sōtēr The key word here is the[…]

The Hero’s Agony in the Bacchae of Euripides

Pentheus torn apart by Agave and Ino. Attic red-figure lekanis (cosmetics bowl) lid, ca. 450-425 BCE / Photo by Jastrow, Louvre Museum, Paris By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of agōn The key word here is agōn, plural agōnes. I give three[…]

Ancient Greece and the Garden: The Ideal Homeric Polis

Ancient Greek garden / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Annette Lucia Giesecke Chair, Department of Languages, Literature and Cultures Elias Ahuja Professor of Classics University of Delaware It is at dawn, the time of new beginnings, that the Phaiakian ship, with Odysseus onboard, draws near to the island of Ithaka. There the spectacular harbor of Phorkys,[…]

Heroic Aberration in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus

Mask of Agamemnon, from shaft grave V, grave circle A, c.1550-1500 B.C.E., gold, 12 inches / 35 cm (National Archaeological Museum, Athens) By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of atē The key word here is atē, the meaning of which can[…]

An Introduction to Ancient Greek Tragedy

By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University In considering the traditions of tragedy, it is important to keep in mind that the medium of tragedy in particular and of drama in general was the central context for the evolution of traditions in[…]

What Did ‘Hero’ Mean in Ancient Greece?

Dying Warrior sculpture from the East Pediment of the late archaic Temple of Aphaia in Aegina,c.500-480 BCE, Munich, Glyptothek / Photo by Barbara McManus, Creative Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The key word here is sēmainein, which means ‘mean [something],[…]

Krinein: Defining the Cult Hero

Statue of the ancient greek historian Herodotus at the parliament of Vienna / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of krinein The key word for this hour is krinein, the “middle voice” for which is krinesthai, and the meaning of[…]

The Cult Hero in Homeric Poetry and Beyond

Detail of a relief depicting the “Apotheosis of Homer,” attributed to Archelaos of Priene, ca. 225 BCE–205 BCE. In the British Museum. / Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of “olbios” “Ulysses Departing[…]

The Mind of Odysseus in the Homeric Odyssey

Odysseus departs from the Land of the Phaeacians, painting by Claude Lorrain (1646) / Louvre Museum, Paris By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of “noos” This diagram shows the medieval understanding of spheres of the cosmos, derived from Aristotle, and as per the standard explanation by Ptolemy.[…]

The Return of Odysseus in the Homeric Odyssey

Illustration from Schwab, Gustav: “Die schönsten Sagen des klassischen Altertums” (1882) By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of nostos Odysseus and his crew escape the cyclops, as painted by Arnold Böcklin in 1896. / Wikimedia Commons The key word here[…]

The Sign of the Hero in the Visual and Verbal Art of the Iliad

The Triumph of Achilles by Franz von Matsch. Achilles is seen dragging Hector’s lifeless body in front of the Gates of Troy. / A fresco on the upper level of the main hall of the Achilleion at Corfu, Greece. By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of sēma[…]

Patroklos as the Other Self of Achilles

The body of Patroclus is lifted by Menelaus and Meriones while Odysseus and others look on (Etruscan relief, 2nd century BC) / Photo by Jastrow (Wikimedia Commons), Museo Nazionale Archeologico Nazionale, Florence By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The Meaning of Therapōn The key word here is therapōn, ‘attendant; ritual[…]

When Mortals become ‘Equal’ to Immortals: Achilles – Death of a Hero, Death of a Bridegroom

Thetis immersing her son, Achilles, in the River Styx by Antoine Borel, 18th century / Galleria Nazionale, Parma, Italy By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of daimōn In Greek mythology, Lamia, the Queen of Libya, was transformed into a child-eating dæmon.[…]

Achilles as Lyric Hero in the Songs of Sappho and Pindar

Achilles sacrificing to Zeus for Patroclus’ safe return, from the Ambrosian Iliad, a 5th-century illuminated manuscript. / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of aphthito- The key word here is aphthito- in the sense of ‘imperishable’. And, by the time we reach the end,[…]

Achilles and the Poetics of Lament

Dying Achilles (Achilleas thniskon) in the gardens of the Achilleion / Photo by Dr.K., Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of akhos and penthos There are two key words for this hour, akhos and penthos, and the meaning of both words is ‘grief, sorrow; public[…]

Parsing the Poet, Bob Dylan

“I’m a Dylan professor and a Dylan fan,” says Harvard Professor Richard Thomas, who teaches a popular freshman seminar on the singer-songwriter and recently published “Why Dylan Matters.” / Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard Staff Photographer New book examines the influence of the classics on the Nobelist’s music. By Jill Radsken / 12.13.2017 Richard Thomas may be the[…]

Achilles as Epic Hero and the Idea of Total Recall in Song

Triumphant Achilles dragging Hector’s lifeless body in front of the Gates of Troy, from a panoramic fresco on the upper level of the main hall of the Achilleion, painting by Franz Matsch, 1892 / Photo by Dr.K., Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The[…]

Learning to Read the Classics

A Reading from Homer (1885) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1885 / Philadelphia Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Jean Bollack (deceased) French Philosopher, Philologist, and Literary Critic When I started out, I found it hard to distinguish writing projects from re-elaborations of subject matter, and I failed to pay sufficient attention to the breaks, large or very[…]