#Thelxinoe ~ Classics News for July 7, 2022

Hodie est Non. Jul. 2775 AUC ~ 9 Hekatombion in the second year of the 700th Olympia

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Homer’s Odyssey depicts an afterlife that is relatively dull, with heroic actions and glory reserved for the living. Nonetheless, people in Southern Italy in the fourth century BCE were captivated by the underworld and decorated large funerary vases with scenes of the afterlife—the domain of Hades and Persephone, where sinners like Sisyphus are tortured for eternity and heroes like Herakles and Orpheus performed daring feats. Little is known about precisely how these vases were used and seen in death rituals. A new book by Getty Publications, Underworld: Imagining the Afterlife in Ancient South Italian Vase Painting, brings together 40 such vases and explores new research on them. In this episode, Getty Museum curator of antiquities David Saunders discusses these enormous and often elaborate vases, explaining the myths they depict and what is known about the ways in which they were used. Saunders is editor of Underworld.

This week Dave and Jeff take a break from Vergil (well, kinda) and fast forward a few centuries to Augustine of Hippo. Now, here’s a guy that a lot of our audience should be able to relate to—openly hated learning grammar as a kid, beat his head against the wall trying to master Greek, pushed back against things his teachers forced him to do. But as an older man looking back through his life in his Confessions Augie feels guilt for loving the Aeneid so much and not appreciating, say, the foundational aspects of the dative of reference, as well as not weeping for his own flagrant dalliances. But were those tears for Dido really wasted? Can good art channel our emotions in a healthy direction or does it always take us off the path toward God? And why can’t Jeff just keep it together at the end of Pixar’s Cars? Tune in to find out.

In this first episode of a two-parter on the Samnite Wars, we focus in on one of Rome’s greatest rivals in early Italy. Based in modern day Campania, who were the Samnites? With three wars between the Roman Republic and the Samnite armies, beginning in 343 BC and the ending with a Roman victory in 290 BC, what happened in those explosive 53 years? In part one, Tristan is joined by Dr Kathryn Lomas from Durham University to find out more about these conflicts and the effect they had on the rise of Rome as an ancient superpower.

This week, we’re taking a bit of a detour into a previous, much-loved topic: Marc Antony, Cleopatra, and How it All Went Wrong. In this episode, we return to the beach at Actium with author, historian, and academic Barry Strauss as our tour guide. His new book, The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium, discusses the infamous sea battle Marc Antony and Cleopatra fought against Octavian and Agrippa for love, for supremacy, for their very survival. Join us as we deconstruct this battle, paint a vivid picture of ancient war at sea, and tackle the one question everyone’s asking: why did Cleopatra flee the battlefield?

Nobody asked for this! Bad Film Expert and friend of the show Dr Melissa L Gustin came back, and we watched the third Dan Brown film, Inferno. This time there’s maybe going to be a plague caused by a eugenicist tech bro, kind of inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy? And Robert Langdon the “Symbologist” has to stop it? It’s not good. We also got mad about the geography of Florence, museum security, and the many, many wasted opportunities in this film. Nature is very much not healing.

In the fifth episode of our podcast series on the end of Roman Britain, David Musgrove talks to Dr James Gerrard about how society changed as Britain slipped out of Roman control in the fifth century. They also discuss what the latest research can tell us about how people might have reimagined their identities in the face of a changing world.

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‘Sorting’ Out Your Day:

Today on the Etruscan Brontoscopic Calendar:

If it thunders today, it portends rains which will be harmful to grain.

… adapted from the text and translation of:

Jean MacIntosh Turfa, The Etruscan Brontoscopic Calendar, in Nancy Thomson de Grummond and Erika Simon (eds.), The Religion of the Etruscans. University of Texas Press, 2006. (Kindle edition)