Posts Tagged ‘classics’

“Imperium sine fine”, they termed their empire: “dominion without limit.” Well, the Goths, Huns, Vandals and Moors had something to say about that. But Philip Parker’s new book, The Empire Stops Here, has a most intriguing concept:

to travel the entire length of what the Romans themselves termed the “limes”, the frontier zone of their empire. As The Guardian reviews it, the result was a journey epic enough to satisfy even a Virgil. As Parker sums it up, with justifiable pride, “I have encountered more than five centuries of Roman history, in some 21 modern countries, covering a range of climactic variations from a snowstorm in Switzerland to a sandstorm at 45 Centigrade in Egypt’s Dakhleh Oasis, and have covered more than 20,000 kilometres on the ground.”Yet his book is far from being a conventional travelogue. Once the introduction is done, the first person barely intrudes. Neither a work of history, nor a scholarly gazetteer, nor a guide, but rather a blend of all three, The Empire Stops Here is a book in which weather-beaten masonry serves to crowd out human beings, and in which the people who most truly come alive are those who have been dead for 2,000-odd years.

Read more from The Guardian here.


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The ancient Greeks lived and warred and died so they could know things for us.

Before the war, there was Aristophanes. After the war, there is Sophocles. On March 3, 2003, activists Kathryn Blume and Sharon Bower organized 1,029 simultaneous performances and dramatic readings of Lysistrata – coordinating over 225,000 people in all 50 states and 59 foreign countries – as a protest against the Iraq War, a grand fugue of Aristophanes’ bawdy comedy known as The Lysistrata Project.

Now, the BBC and NPR report on a new directive, the brainchild of director and translator Brian Doerries: The Philoctetes Project, to raise awareness and support for returning soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has performed Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes for the Warrior Resilience Conference. The project features “John Adams” star Paul Giamatti as Odysseus.

“It’s an amazing thing that the military is so interested in these [plays],” says Giamatti, who points out that from one perspective, both Philoctetes and Ajax can seem anti-military. The title characters, he explains, essentially rail at their superior officers: “‘How could you have done this to me? I gave you my loyalty and strength and you turned me into a monster.'”

The NPR article is a great primer to this most impressive project.

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And it looked so innocent.

And it looked so innocent.

(ANSAmed) – BERLIN, AUGUST 21 – Troy was much bigger than what was believed until now, Ernst Pernicka, professor of Archeometry at the University of Tuebingen and in charge of the excavations under way in Turkey, affirms. While the scholars believed for long time that the legendary city spans on a surface of at most 27 hectares, in fact Troy was located on a surface of 35 hectares, Pernicka told the German media. The continuation of a defensive trench from the Bronze Age was recently discovered by the archaeologists and it allowed evaluating unequivocally the real expansion of Troy. (ANSAmed).

See the newly uncovered trench and affirm all your Brad Pitt-related fantasies on the Journey of Odysseus next autumn.

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In October, Travel Dynamics International retraces The Aeneid in the Mediterranean. Today, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, we learn about a new approach to Virgil’s epic:

For more than 2,500 years, classical epic has been the province of men: written by, for, and about them, and passed down through the centuries by male translators. One could certainly describe Virgil’s Aeneid as a manly poem. From its arms-and-the-man opening to its climactic blood bath on the battlefield, the Latin epic tells a tale of exile, combat, and slaughter, with a body count rivaling that of Homer’s Iliad. Women figure mostly as collateral damage.Aeneas\' Flight from Troy, detail -- Federico Barrocci, 1598

In what appears to be a first, however, a woman has finally tried her hand at bringing Virgil’s dactylic hexameters to a modern, English-speaking public. This month Yale University Press publishes a blank-verse translation by the poet and classicist Sarah Ruden…..

[The Aeneid] raises an urgent question — What price empire? — even as it creates a foundational myth of how a great empire came to be. In an age that has had its fill of war and foreign adventures, Virgil’s epic, written 2,000 years ago, still speaks volumes…..

Our own recent, bloody history makes it easy to hear echoes in Virgil’s tragedy. That has made the Aeneid even more appealing to a post-Vietnam generation of translators.

“Particularly when you get meaningless wars like World War I, Vietnam, and Iraq, the legitimacy of death gets questioned,” says Richard F. Thomas, a professor of Greek and Latin and director of graduate studies in the classics department at Harvard University. “This is a poem that activates that question pretty well: Is Rome worth it?”

After completing her doctorate, Ruden found her first teaching job at the University of Cape Town. Living in South Africa, a country still gripped by turmoil at the end of apartheid, she says she came to understand how Virgil felt about the brutality of civil war….

“How imperial conflict works itself out isn’t an academic matter for me,” she explains. “The Aeneid isn’t a stiff antiquarian pageant. It’s immediate and primal. ‘They’re taking our stuff! They want all of it! They’re killing us for it! Let’s kill them first!'”

“I don’t believe I put the slightest strain on the Latin in trying to echo Virgil’s defensiveness and helpless grief,” she says, “but first I had to understand it, and Africa gave me that gift.”

Read the whole article here, and learn more about Virgil’s epic on TDI’s fascinating voyage — an epic of its own — here.

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Argentinian critic and translator Alberto Manguel has done something quite unique, and necessary for our time. He realized that writing a biography of Homer is impossible. Yet he understood that The Iliad and The Odyssey are, in fact, the foundations of Western civilization. But unlike most of us, who just accept that phrase — “the foundations of Western civilization” — he interrogated it, and traced the ways in which Homer’s narratives have been used, re-used, appropriated, and re-forged over these last 2,500 years. He’s written a biography of Homer’s works. A history of the poems. Read the review in The Washington Post. And then take Odysseus’s journey yourself — in a great deal more comfort and luxury.

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The Death of SocratesThe reviewer from The Chronicle of Higher Education ultimately gives a negative review of Luis E. Navia’s Socrates: A Life Examined, but the review itself provides an interesting history of the perception and reception of Socrates and his philosophy.

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