Thelxinoe ~ Classics News for March 20, 2023

Hodie est a.d. XIII Kal. Apr. 2776 AUC ~ 28 Anthesterion in the second year of the 700th Olympiad

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Majestic palaces, untold riches, and indeterminable power… the story of Atlantis is a tale as old as time. But is there really any truth behind the ancient tome, or was Plato simply trying his hand at political satire? Join Tom and Dominic as they discuss the origins of the legend of Atlantis.

From claims that the alphabet was originated by Atlantians, Francis Bacon using the story as a model of utopia, to the Nazis co-opting Atlantis as the birthplace of the Aryan race, everyone seems to have wanted a slice of the Atlantian pie. Join Tom and Dominic as they explore the academics and the amateurs who lay claim to discovering the real Atlantis.

From Persia to India to Greece – they called him The Great – that is Alexander the Great. Also known as Alexander III of Macedon, he was one of the most successful military leaders of all time. Undefeated by the time of his death in 323 BCE, he is still a go-to figure when people want to define an empire builder. But how should we view this often cruel and destructive militarist today in the light of current world events? And, despite his brutality, like his ransacking of the beautiful capital city of Persepolis, is there a more progressive side to Alexander, his desire for cultural assimilation for instance, that explains why he became an inspiration not just to nationalists and imperialists but also to writers, poets, and the gay community? To discuss the relevance of Alexander the Great today, Rana Mitter is joined by James Romm, Professor of Classics at Bard College in New York state whose latest book is Demetrius: Sacker of Cities, the failed but would-be successor to Alexander the Great; Dr Haila Manteghi from the University of Münster in Germany who’s the author of Alexander the Great in the Persian tradition; Ali Ansari, Professor of Iranian History at the University of St Andrews in the UK; and Meg Finlayson, a specialist on the evolution of the queer Alexander, from the University of Durham in the UK.

Stephen DeCasien, a Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University studying Nautical Archaeology, discusses his team’s effort to build a naval ram based on ancient techniques. The ram DeCasien and his team produced is the first of its type built in 1.500 years.

The Greek poet Sappho’s reputation looks something like a parabola: at the height of her powers, her lyrics were so beloved that grammarians quoted them as exemplars of the Greek language; Plato called her the “Tenth Muse.” Then, after a thousand years of exaltation, she tumbled from the pantheon. Today, we know very little of her life and precious few of her works remain, most of them recovered from ancient garbage heaps in the 19th century. The surviving 306 fragments of her verse—dozens of them but a single word or phrase—are compiled in a new and updated translation by classicist Diane J. Rayor, simply titled Sappho, out this month from Cambridge University Press. Rayor, Professor Emerita of Classics at Grand Valley State University, joins us on the podcast to discuss the difficulties—and joys—of rediscovering Sappho and translating her verse into English.

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‘Sorting’ Out Your Day:

Today on the Etruscan Brontoscopic Calendar:

If it thunders today, humans will live peacefully and prosperously.

… 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)