Most books mentioned can be orderd from the Bookshop - link on the right.
- Helen of Troy, Goddess, princess, whore
Published this month [October 2005] - following in the footsteps of the original glamorous "TV historian" Michael Wood (In Search of the Trojan War), Bettany Hughes' book promises to prove that Helen was a real historical figure - possibly "bald-headed, bare-breasted and bloodthirsty". See Jonathan Thompson' article in Independent on Sunday (http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/books/news/article318223.ece), and a review, also in the Independent, which praises the scholarship, while teasing the author for her "girly romanticism". http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/books/reviews/article320995.ece
For the Classics Pages take on Helen, try here.
- Troy Effect
BRAD Pitt's film role in Troy has helped make Homer, who has been dead for 2800 years, Britain's favourite poet.
Online sales of works by the ancient Greek writer outstripped any other poet in the past year.
His epic The Iliad, about the Trojan War, sold most.
Next was The Odyssey, dealing with hero Odysseus's adventures returning home from Troy, says a survey by internet firm Amazon.
Fiona Buckland, of Amazon, said: 'We have seen a huge revival in classical Greek
epic poetry this year, which we have put down to the Troy effect.'
[Source:The Daily Record, Oct 07, 2004]
- Atlantis : latest nonsense
I had ignored the theory that Atlantis was the drowned city of Helike
(Eliki) on the south coast of the Gulf of Corinth, despite a recent
UKTV "documentary". The fact that a web search for Helike/Atlantis comes
up with a local olive oil company probably tells you all you need to
know. But a new book by Eberhard Zangger [The Future of the Past, Weidenfeld
£20.00] argues passionately that Atlantis was Troy. Plato's date
of 8000 years before Solon is explained away by counting years as Egyptian
lunar years, ie months. 8000 months before Solon's Egypt trip would
indeed take us to the Mycenaean period - which ties in with Plato's
descriptions of weaponry and fortifications, and the Atlanteans skill
in the arts. If Troy was the only enemy of Greece in this era, Troy
must have been Atlantis. [Zangger makes it sound more convincing in
the book!]. Appropriately, the theory has been ridiculed by the experts
- archaeologists say it's "out of the question", and the philologist
Daniel Mannsperger thinks, like me, that an archaeological dig for Atlantis
is as good an idea as trying to dig up Plato's Republic (or Utopia,
or Erewhon, or Liliput, or Neverneverland). As one reviewer brilliantly
puts it: "the most likely provenance of the tale [of Atlantis] - somewhere
between Plato's ears - is rarely considered by Atlantis enthusiasts."
[Chris Lavers in the Guardian, 5 January 2002]
- Harrius Potterus et Philosophi Lapis
Harry Potter, the world's most famous boy wizard, is to have his daring
exploits translated into Latin and ancient Greek, Britain's Daily Telegraph
reported yesterday. Bloomsbury, the publishers of Harry Potter and the
Philosopher's Stone, have hired retired classics teacher Peter Needham
to write a Latin version. J. K. Rowling hopes the translations will
inspire children who are learning Latin and ancient Greek at school.
The Philosopher's Stone is the first of Rowling's four Potter novels
and the Warner Bros. film version of the book is claiming box-office
records around the world. The Potter novels have sold more than 100-million
copies worldwide and been translated into more than 40 languages. "We
aren't under any illusion that Latin and Greek [translations] will be
bestsellers, but we think that it will mean much more fun lessons for
anyone studying Latin and Greek," Rowling's editor at Bloomsbury, Emma
Matthewson, told the paper. Rowling is a classics fan. She started studying
the subject with French at university before focusing solely on the
modern language. Her Potter books are studded with classical references.
Many of the spells are in Latin. Fluffy, the three-headed dog that guards
the philosopher's stone, is based on the mythical beast Cerberus. And
the motto of the Hogwarts School for Wizards is Draco Dormiens Nunquam
Titillandus, which means "Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon." Needham expects
to finish his Latin translation by August next year. "It's an ideal
job for an old bloke in retirement," he told the paper. "For the time
being I'm calling Harry 'Harrius Potter.' It declines perfectly well
so that, for example, we could have Harrium Potterum. "The literal translation
of Potter would be Figulus, but I very much hope that Potter will survive."
Agence-France Presse,Tuesday, December 4, 2001
- Pottering in Academia
In the mid-1980s, Joanne Kathleen Rowling studied French and Classics
at Exeter University in southwestern England. Eliza T. Dresang, a professor
at Florida State University's School of Information Studies, told UPI
that the literary allusions in Rowling's popular works have provoked
much serious scholarship throughout the English-speaking world and would
generate many doctoral dissertations. Not since "Alice in Wonderland"
has children's literature received this kind of highbrow attention.
Dresang herself has written a chapter to the forthcoming academic tome
"Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower" in which she devotes 11 typescript
pages to Rowling's choice of the first name of Harry's friend Hermione
Granger -- the series' principal female character. The professor wrote
that a Hermione appears in Greek mythology (see Euripides'
Helen), in St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles, in Shakespeare's "A
Winter's Tale," as a character in D.H. Lawrence's novel "Women
in Love," and as the title ("HERmione") of the autobiographical
novel of imagist poet Hilda Doolittle, Lawrence's friend
18 November 2001] - see also Benefits of a Classical
- Sulpicia - Girl Power from the 1st century BC
Soon to be published for the first time in Engish - the only woman
from ancient Rome whose poetry survives - and that in half a dozen
short elegies, less than 50 lines altogether. Long dismissed as "written
for her by Tibullus" (among whose work they appear) - or bad
verses from a schoolgirl's exercise book they are now being actually
read - and their flavour is unmistakably 21st century. She comes across
as sexy and uninhibited. The new translation is published by Hearing
Eye, 999 Torriano Avenue, London NW5 2RX (£ 6.00 + postage).
Check her out first in my translation on the new Sulpicia
- All you wanted to know about sex in Greece ...
A new book about ancient Greek sexuality is on the best-seller lists
(in Greece). It's already been translated into 5 languages. It's called
(in English) Love, Sex and Marriage, A Guide to the Private Life
of the Ancient Greeks by Nikos Vrissimztis. But, contrary to most
scholarly work of the last 20 years, it attempts to show the Greeks
as repressed Victorians. He ignores the brilliant work of Sir Kenneth
Dover in unravelling the subtleties of same-sex relationships, discounting
the vast amount of contrary evidence in order to preserve his illusion
of the purityand nobility of the ancients. "The Greeks had a healthy
aversion to abnormal relations", he avers. Instead, read Dover's Book Greek
Homosexuality - or, a more recent and superbly balanced assessment
of his views - Martha Nussbaum's Sex
and Social Justice. [Article by Ben Rogers in the Guardian,
August 26, 1999]
- What about the Lion on the Cheesegrater Position?
A new book by James Davidson called Courtesans and Fishcakes
has been published by HarperCollins. It paints a far more attractive
view of Athenian sexuality than recent scholarship has suggested (eg
Eva Keuls in The Reign of the Phallus). Current orthodoxy has
interpreted all sexual encounters as showing male dominance - whether
over women, boys or whatever. But Davidson suggests that we put the
fun back into our interpretation of the Athenians' sex-life - his theory
on why so many acts seem to done standing up is both intriguing and
convincing. What's the link with fishcakes? Well. The popularity of
fish - an expensive luxury in days before refrigeration - and sex both
show the Athenians in transition from citizens for whom only
the polis mattered to individuals who could afford to spend money
on enjoying themselves, and did so to glorious excess. They knew where
you could stuff your meden agan. [June 1997]
- Ovid wins again
Ted Hughes' magnificent Tales from Ovid has now won a third
award - the £10,000 W H Smith Literarary Award, to add to the two
Whitbread Awards (Poetry Award and Book of the Year).
Hughes gives the main credit to Ovid, but Professor John Carey (Professor
of English at Oxford) says "this is the only translation I have read
that turns great poetry into great poetry."(Times 5th March
1998) I can only agree, having read the book non-stop from cover to
cover on a recent long-haul flight.
- Ovid is Book of the Year
Ted Hughes' Tales from Ovid has deservedly carried off the Whitbread
Prize for Book of the Year 1997. Among the chosen tales from the Metamorphoses
is one which a British reviewer recommends to Bill Clinton for bedside(?)
reading: the story of Atalanta, where Hippomenes seems uncannily to
have been where BC did not fear to tread. Luke Harding suggests subsituting
Hillary for vengeful Aphrodite and Ms Lewinsky for for Atalanta. As
for the temple where the fornication occurred - the Oval Office. See
my Atalanta page for details of the story. (Guardian
29th January 1998)
- The Great Athenian Novel
Newly out in paperback (Warner) is Tom Holt's two-part trilogy The
Walled Orchard. The hero is a 5th century comic playwright and arch-rival
of a loathsome Aristophanes. He survives the Pelponnesian War, the Plague,
the post-war decline of Athens and perversion of her democracy - all
with one-liners and wisecracks appropriate to a "fifth-century Hawkeye
Pierce". And the details are accurate - the author spent years researching
Athenian economics in the hopes that this would explain the development
of democracy. He decided it didn't and started writing the novels instead.
(Independent on Sunday 21 December 1997)
- Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis
The eagerly awaited new dictionary of the Latin language (or more accurately
dictionary of new Latin) is now out. 15,000 new concepts unknown to
Livy and Tacitus - from toyboy to sellotape, from voyeur to stripper
- can now be discussed in the "decent obscurity of a learned language".
It's the work of the Vatican's Father Carlo Egger, who hopes it proves
once and for all that Latin is not a "dead language". Details and examples
on Varro's Page[UK Press October
- Ted Hughes does Ovid
The Poet Laureate escapes from the duty of providing doggerel for Britain's
sad royals and gets his teeth again into some real red meat: the Metamorphoses
have been waiting 2000 years for the Hughes treatment. His newly-published
"Tales from Ovid" (Faber & Faber) is brilliant: 24 stories of passion,
perversion and lust. Perhaps he will be emboldened by his success in
this book to forget about his mimsy birthday odes and give us the real
Hughes treatment of the royal soap-opera: certainly the possibilities
for giving Fergie Charles and Di the full Ovidian monty must be very
tempting! [reviews in most papers and magazines weekend of 24-25 May
- Cicero was right about old age!
Cicero's recomendations for a long and healthy life have been confirmed
in a book published in UK this week. American doctor Dharma Singh Khalsa
- without admitting any debt to the first century BC pop philosopher
- claims that a simple diet, mental activity (reasoning and memory exercises
and no TV), plus regular reading or writing will stave off the dreaded
Alzheimer's disease. Cicero in De Senectute recommends
mental activity (learn something new - like Greek!), exercise, moderation
in diet. In fact his work seems very much in tune with the modern idea
of "dying young as late as possible". [Brain Longevity
published by Century]