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.
I don’t know how I only just found this, but I just found the best article from The Onion.
“A group of leading historians held a press conference Monday at the National Geographic Society to announce they had “entirely fabricated” ancient Greece, a culture long thought to be the intellectual basis of Western civilization.
The group acknowledged that the idea of a sophisticated, flourishing society existing in Greece more than two millennia ago was a complete fiction created by a team of some two dozen historians, anthropologists, and classicists who worked nonstop between 1971 and 1974 to forge “Greek” documents and artifacts.”
Have fun studying your fabrications!
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.
Many are familiar with his physical labors, but this account of his emotional trials helps to humanize the man, the myth, the legend…
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.
This is a fun article about the different spices and foods used by Romans with their dishes. Did you know that they used a lot of flavors that we might consider Asian? The Roman empire was quite expansive.
Check out this cool blog on the different parallels that can be drawn between the HBO drama and real Roman historical figures. Some really great cultural references going on in our media!