Thelxinoe ~ Classics News for December 29, 2022

Hodie est a.d. IV Ian. 2775 AUC ~ 7 Poseideion II in the second year of the 700th Olympiad

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‘I’m Spartacus!’ In the field of epic film making, the 1960 historical drama ‘Spartacus’, is legendary. Directed by Stanley Kibrick, adapted from the Howard Fast novel by Red Scare blacklisted screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, and starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov and Jean Simmons; it is a classic. But how much of the plot has emerged from the true story of a Thracian gladiator and slave who escaped his Roman captors and led an unsuccessful but impressive rebellion against their oppressors? How much of the film’s message was formed by the personalities involved in its creation, and the context in which it was made. In her own words, Dr Fiona Radford devoted years of her life to the man with the most memorable chin cleft in the world – Kirk Douglas, specifically as Spartacus. Her thesis traced the production history of this film, examining in particular the effect that the turbulent process had on the portrayal of female characters. Having taught at Macquarie University, ANU and the University of Sydney, she currently teaches history at secondary school level, and her conversation with Tristan in this episode is an eye-opener to 1950s film making as well as the legend of Spartacus.

Today’s counter-culture and alternative movements question mainstream norms, such as putting too much value on material possessions. The Cynics, practical philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome, also rejected conventional desires to seek wealth, power and fame. They were not your usual kind of philosophers: rather than lecturing or writing about their ideas, they acted out their beliefs by denying themselves worldly possessions and tried to live as simply as possible. Their leader, Diogenes of Sinope, allegedly slept in a ceramic jar on the streets of Athens and ate raw meat like a dog, flouting convention to draw attention to his ideas. So who were the Cynics? How influential was their movement? What made it last some 900 years? And why does the term ‘cynicism’ have a different meaning today? Bridget Kendall is joined by three eminent scholars of Greek philosophy: Dr. William Desmond, Senior Lecturer in Ancient Classics at Maynooth University in Ireland and author of several books on the Cynics; Dr. Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi, Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy at University College London; and Mark Usher, Professor of Classical Languages and Literature at the University of Vermont and author of new Cynic translations into English.

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Today on the Etruscan Brontoscopic Calendar:

If it thunders today, it portends a healthy leanness for humans.

… 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)

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