Personally, one of my favorite parts of studying classics is finding the best modern takes on these ancient stories. They’re common enough from fabulous movies like “O Brother Where Art Thou?” to great books like the Percy Jackson series and “The Song of Achilles.” I have to say, though, my favorite modern take on the classics is an album called “Hadestown” by the artist Anais Mitchell.
Hadestown is a ‘folk opera’ set during the American Great Depression that retells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. (Spoilers ahoy! We all know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, but if you would like to find out for yourself how it plays out differently in this different setting, then skip the rest of this paragraph.) Hades is a businessman who owns a gold mine, Persephone runs a speakeasy, and Orpheus works in the goldmine. It’s a bit unclear, but one of two things happens: Eurydice has starved to death because of Orpheus’ meager wages working at the goldmine (I think it’s this one?). But it’s also possible that Eurydice, still alive, ran away to Hades because Orpheus could not support her. Either way, Orpheus then goes on a quest to get her back from Hades.
Hadestown features a full cast of influential folk voices, including Justin Vernon and Ani DiFranco, playing Orpheus and Persephone, respectively. Mitchell herself plays Eurydice. The album is one of the highest rated folk albums of all time and, depending on your source, one of the highest rated albums of all time. In this album, Mitchell shows off her stylistic flexibility, transitioning effortlessly from slow orchestral numbers to upbeat love songs and back. The songs are incredibly emotive, underscored by the superb vocal cast.
But enough about praising this music (although I could really go all day!). Listen for yourself! This is the first song from the album, called Wedding Song, in which Orpheus and Eurydice are in love and getting married, but are struggling to afford the ceremony and a life together afterward.
Hey Classics folk! Here is a valuable resource for everyone taking either Greek or Latin language courses:
The Perseus Digital Library provided you with an online dictionary as well as many, many, full texts both in English and the original Greek or Latin. To search for texts or dictionary definitions, go to the home page and click all search options. To search for definitions of words, type the word into the box under the label word study tool. A key is provided for how to enter words written in the Greek alphabet. Be sure to select the language of the word in drop-down menu on the right. The useful thing about this particular tool is that you can enter any form of the word and the search engine will still recognize it (most of the time). The search results will show several entries of all the possible definitions of that word. For example: ἀρχῇ could be either a verb of a noun. Perseus will bring up both dictionary entries. Additionally, under the dictionary entries will be listed all the possible forms that the specific form you searched for could be (Example: ἀρχῇ could be 2nd person subjunctive middle perfect, or active middle perfect, etc.). For more detailed dictionary entries, click one of the options by show lexicon entry in:.
You can also search for texts or authors in the search bar in the top right corner. Keep in mind that Perseus’ search engine is case and spelling sensitive. Beyond simply reading the text, you can use Perseus to search texts for their use of particular words. For instance, You can search for every instance of Caesar’s use of the word “barbarus” in De Bello Gallico (he uses it about 42 times). To do this, search for the text you want to examine. Once you have opened it on perseus, there will be a box on the right labeled search where you can enter the word you wish to search for. Again, perseus will pull up the word in every form that it appears unless you check the box marked search for exact forms only.
In conclusion, perseus is a powerful tool for you Greek and Latin language students. Use it, don’t abuse it.
Here’s a link to a great New Yorker article on the ancient Greek poetess Sappho. For the uninitiated, Sappho is the famous lesbian poet. That is to say, she was from the Isle of Lesbos and is renowned for homoeroticism in her poetry. However, as the article discusses, Sappho’s actual sexuality is difficult to pin down.
Controversies aside, Sappho was considered one of the great poets of her time. “Solon of Athens, son of Execestides, after hearing his nephew singing a song of Sappho’s over the wine, liked the song so much that he told the boy to teach it to him. When someone asked him why he was so eager, he replied, ‘so that I may learn it and then die.’ ” Needless to say, she’s well worth checking out and this article is a good introduction.
Did your reading of Homer, Vergil, or any other classical author happen to inspire your own poetry? If yes, the magazine Tellus out of the UK would love to see your work:
Tellus is an annual magazine which celebrates the rich use of the classical past in contemporary poetry; http://www.tellusmagazine.co.uk/. Poetry submissions for Issue 5 are warmly invited (deadline 15th November). Please do pass on this message to any colleagues or students to whom you think this would be of interest.
Thursday, Nov. 8th
*WU Campus : Rogers Music Center : Hudson Concert Hall
Dr. Jodi Magness
Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In this slide-illustrated lecture, we survey Jewish tombs and burial customs in Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, and consider the archaeological and literary evidence for the burials of Jesus and his brother James. The lecture includes a discussion of the claims surrounding the so-called “James ossuary” and the “Talpiyot tomb” (recently said to be the tomb of Jesus and his family).
A few days ago, Bernhard posted the draft of an article on gospel.net, a popular site that he created after his graduation to disseminate the insights from his senior thesis on several early, non-canonical Christian gospels. Entitled “How the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Might Have Been Forged: A Tentative Proposal,” the article improves upon earlier observations by Francis Watson (Durham University) that the Gos. Jes. Wife seems to be a “patchwork” of words and small phrases “culled from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas“.
Bernhard has discovered that at least one of the grammatical oddities of the new gospel’s Coptic text may be copied straight from an online source, the early pdf-verson of Michael Grondin’s bilingual Coptic-English edition of the Gospel of Thomas. Gos. Jes. Wife 1, which juxtaposes words found in close proximity to each other in Gos. Thom. 101, leaves out a single-letter Coptic object marker (M with a supralinear stroke). That same error, which Grondin later corrected, occurs in the pdf-version of his interlinear translation, which has been available online since 2002.
While at Willamette, Andrew Bernhard studied classical and New Testament Greek with George H. Atkinson Professor emeritus of Religious and Ethical Studies Lane McGaughy. In the summer before his Junior Year, he was awarded a Carson Undergraduate Grant to write a paper on “The Acceptance of the Gospel of John into Normative Christianity.” During his research, he became fascinated with early, non-canonical Gospels and eventually wrote his 1998 senior thesis on “Seven Early Christian Gospels.” Inducted into Willamette’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter, he graduated magna cum laude.
Andrew Bernhard’s subsequent career path, which led him first to a second B.A. in molecular biology, then to a Masters of Studies in Greek and Roman History from Oxford University, and finally to his current position in biotechnology sales, is outlined in an interview published in Willamette’s alumni magazine, Scene 39 (2008). On the side, Andrew Bernhard continues to run his gospels.net site and, as his article so splendidly demonstrates, to shape the scholarly discussion in Classical Studies.
By the way, while Coptic (unlike Latin, ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, and six other languages) is not taught at Willamette University, Professor Stephen Patterson, the current holder of the George H. Atkinson Chair in Religious Studies, happens to be an authority on the subject and has published several books and articles on the Gospel of Thomas.
Dickinson College has just launched a very helpful new resource for intermediate Latin students.
The Dickinson College Commentaries, a new series edited by Christopher Francese (Dickinson College) and available for free online, aims to make ancient Greek and Latin texts accessible to a wider audience. Each commentary is prepared by a scholarly expert and offers not just the usual notes on grammar and material culture, but also illustrations, animated maps, videos, and even audio clips that allow you not only to read, but to hear the Latin text. In addition, the site offers vocabulary lists of the most common Greek and Latin words, arranged alphabetically, by parts of speech, by frequency, and by semantic groups (http://dcc.dickinson.edu/resources).
Three commentaries have appeared so far: Selections from Caesar’s De bello Gallico, Ovid’s Amores I, and a late antique text, the Life of Saint Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus (ca. 363 – ca. 400 CE). More texts, including Greek texts, will hopefully follow soon.
« (…) we ask UNESCO to invite European Governments to engage in the protection of Latin and Greek languages, as the highest expression of the cultural substance of Europe and to declare them “intangible patrimony of humanity” (…) »
This is an appeal to UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to protect the Ancient Latin and Greek languages. This petition argues that the preservation of Ancient Greek and Latin is essential to higher education world wide, and I think this is a great organization to throw our weight behind as a community.
Click here to get to the petition. All it takes to sign is a name and email address.