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Sunday, April 14, 2019

**Special Guest Episode on Ten Caesars w/Barry Strauss**

This is the fourth episode in a series where I converse with Classicists about either books or articles that they have published, their current research interests, or just unique classes and topics that they are teaching and exploring further. 

In this special episode, I am joined by Dr Barry Strauss, a Professor of History and Classics at Cornell University, where he teaches courses on the history of ancient Greece and Rome, war and peace in the ancient world, history of battle, introduction to military history, and specialized topics in ancient history. Dr Strauss is a widely acclaimed military and naval historian who has spent years researching and studying the leaders of the ancient world and has written and spoken widely of their mistakes and successes. As such, he is a recognized authority on the subject of leadership and the lessons that can be learned from the experiences of the greatest political and military leaders of the ancient world (including Caesar, Hannibal, and Alexander, among many others). Some of the numerous books that he has authored include The Battle of Salamis (2004)The Trojan War (2006)The Spartacus War (2009)Masters of Command (2013)The Death of Caesar (2015), and his newest book, Ten Caesars (2019)

Dr Strauss also has appeared in more than a dozen television documentaries and radio programs (see, and has published op-ed pieces in several popular media outlets (see Recently, he has upped his public history to a new level by creating an ancient history podcast, called Antiquitas.

So it’s with great pleasure today that Dr Strauss came onto THOAG and in the lively conversation that followed we discussed his new book, the Ten Caesars, his podcast Antiquitas, the importance of public history, and leadership lessons from the ancient world.

***You can order Dr. Strauss's book here (Simon & Schuster or Amazon)***
Recommended Articles
"Women in Ancient Rome Didn’t Have Equal Rights. They Still Changed History”

Sunday, March 31, 2019

**Special Guest Episode at MFA Boston w/Phoebe Segal**

In today's special guest episode, I am joined by Dr. Phoebe SegalMary Bryce Comstock Curator, Greek and Roman Art, at Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA). She gave me a one-on-one tour of their new Daily Life in Ancient Greece” exhibit (in Gallery 212A-B) and allowed me to record our conversation while doing it.

***Clarification: This is not a special exhibition. It's a permanent collection gallery.

(1) How did the exhibit begin?
(2) How were the various categories of “daily life” decided upon?
(3) What was the determining factor in the aesthetics and overall layout of the exhibit?
(4) Are these all pieces that came from the MFA’s Art of the Ancient World collection or are there any newly acquired pieces specifically for the exhibit?
(5) What was the process like to get the objects ready for the exhibit?

"Death was a family affair, and in Athens children were obliged by law to provide a proper burial for their parents. All over Greece grave monuments appeared on the roads leading out of towns. From the 5th century BC onwards, wealthier families owned their own burial precincts; they commemorated their loved ones with carved images of farewell scenes. Such works tell us a great deal, especially about women’s lives and roles in mourning."

"Marriage was a crucial institution in Greek society. While still teenagers, women were betrothed to men in their 20s or 30s. The Athenian wedding was a festival that lasted three days. The first day comprised sacrifices, ritual bathing, and the beautification of the bride. On the second, the procession and feasting took place. Day three, gifts were exchanged. The imagery on Athenian vases gives us a glimpse into these rituals. Wedding scenes became very popular in red-figure vases after 450 BC and are usually found on vessels used in a nuptial context—bottles for perfumed oils, bathing vessels, and various ceremonial jars. Ancient women looked to the goddess Aphrodite—the consummate seductress—as a model for their own beauty rituals. On view here are objects central to women’s beautification, including mirrors, cosmetic vessels, and bottles made to hold expensive perfumes. All were essential to a young woman as she prepared for the most critical and memorable event of her life: her wedding. Objects of personal memory, important to the women who used them, were frequently found buried with their owners."

"Usually, in art, young children appear in the company of women: mothers, sisters, aunts, or women slaves working in the house. When father and son appear together, it’s often in the form of a poignant farewell—the son departing for a war from which he may never return. Artists also turned to myth, portraying legendary families in scenes that modeled both positive and negative behaviors. There are also objects that allow you to see what it was like to be a kid in ancient Greece, showing you what activities children did on their own and with their families. Most of the objects here were dedicated either as gifts to the gods when children crossed into a new phase of life (such as puberty for boys and marriage for girls) or as grave gifts when they died prematurely. Together, they demonstrate how adults cared for and catered to the needs of children; how they cultivated in them a sense of belonging in the community; and how their families chose to remember them."

Miniature wine jug (chous) with boy playing with dog, 425 BC

Miniature wine jug (chous) depicting two boys boxing, 425 BC

"Textile manufacture was central to the sustainability of any Greek household. An intensely collaborative process, it was overseen and carried out chiefly by women. Since few ancient textiles survive, images of women engaged in spinning, weaving, and sewing and the implements they used (spindle whorls, loom weights, and needles) provide evidence of their production. Wool was the chief fabric (sheep were everywhere in Greece), while linen and silk were imported for finer garments. Textiles served not just for apparel but also for furnishings (mattresses, cushions, covers) as well as wall hangings and window coverings. In ancient Greece, dress embodied and communicated various aspects of identity: gender, status, and even ethnicity. Among the many garments work by Greek men and women, the peplos, chiton, and himation were the most common. Only women wore the peplos, a woolen dress famously associated with the goddess Athena. Women and men alike sported the linen chiton (and its shorter version, the chitoniskos) and the woolen himation, a kind of mantel. Garments were given shape by pins and belts rather than tailoring. Vibrant dyes and woven patterning distinguished finer attire. Manufacture was extremely labor intensive and therefore clothing was highly valuable."

"Medical practice was an art – a gift from the gods. Greek philosophers taught medicine, and famous medical schools existed at Knidos, in Asia Minor, and on the island of Kos, where Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” pioneered a method based on observation and reason. Doctors today still take a version of his Hippocratic Oath, swearing to practice ethically. Greek texts reveal that patients suffered a host of maladies, including cancer (especially breast cancer); typhoid fever; pneumonia; tuberculosis; chicken pox, arteriosclerosis (a hardening of the arteries). Treatments ranged from drugs and purges to surgery, using instruments similar to those on view here."

Medical Instruments

"Butchers to barbers, doctors, shoemakers, vintners, fishermen and farmers: the Greeks worked all manner of jobs. Artisans and artists included the potters who made the vases throughout this gallery and the painters who decorated them as well as sculptors, metalsmiths, and more. Both the state and private individuals profited from enslaved labor in a variety of settings – from quarries and mines, to the home, and beyond. Archaeological evidence at Athens suggests that metalworkers, potters, and terracotta sculptors (coroplasts, “modelers of small figures”) lived and worked in close proximity. Coroplasts used molds like the ones in this case, pressing thin pieces of moist clay into them layer by layer. (Molds for the front and back of sculptures were sometimes tied to together with string.) Once the sculptures were leather-hard, accessory molds might be added for details, while other features were incised by hand. Often figurines were hollow; the bottoms were left open (or vents added) to allow steam to escape during firing process."

Two-handled jar (amphora), 500-490 BC

Fragment of drinking cup (kylix) with man decorating a kylix, 480 BC

Drinking cup (kylix) with man painting a head, 510 BC

Mould of a Youthful Face, 330-31 BC

Barber cutting a man's hair, 500-475 BC

"The Greeks depended on agriculture to prosper and thrive. Producing a surplus of food meant some members of society could be free to pursue other essential functions. Ancient farmers often diversified their crops, growing cereals and grapes in addition to olives – which could be risky and expensive to cultivate. Favored livestock were sheep and rams because they provided milk, wool, and meat. They were also the preferred animal to be sacrificed to the gods, so many miniature versions are found in households and sanctuaries as votive offerings. Donkeys and oxen were used for transport and heavy lifting. Fish and olive oil have been staples of the Greek diet for millennia. Unlike hunting (which was associated with the wealthy) fishing was embraced by all levels of society. And all Greeks ate fish, fresh from the waters, salted, dried, or smoked. Greece was also the Mediterranean’s main olive oil producer – a part of Greek culture identity. A component of ritual and social gatherings, a prize for athletic victors, it was also used for bathing, leather tanning, as a base for perfumes and unguents, and of course cooking."

Fish Hook, 5th-4th cent BC

Fishing net needle, 5th-4th cent BC

***To see other items in the exhibit that were not discussed in this episode, please check out the MFA's digitized collection here.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

089 - The Breakdown of Peace

In this episode, we discuss the mid-5th century BC history of two areas that were important economically and politically to Athens--the west (the Sicel Revolt, Syracuse's defeat of Akragas, the establishment of Thurii, and new Athenian alliances with Segesta, Leontini, and Rhegium) and the northeast (the founding of Brea and Amphipolis on the Strymon River and rise of the Odrysrian kingdom of Thrace and the Spartokid dynasty of the Bosporan Kingdom); Athens' growing hostilities with Macedon; and the breakdown of the Thirty Years' Peace treaty (its inadequacies, the Samian Revolt, and Corcyraean/Corinthian hostilities with the battles of Leukimme and Sybota)

458/454 BC - Diplomatic alliance possibly established between Segesta and Athens
453 BC - Dulcetius organized a federation of the Sicel towns of central Sicily, aiming to bring the Greek cities under native Sicel rule of the island once again
452/1 BC - Sybaris was re-founded
451 BC - Ducetius defeated Akragas and Syracuse in battle 
450 BC - Syracuse avenged prior defeat by routing Ducetius' Sicel army at Nomae; Ducetius fled to Syracuse as a supplicant and was spared and exiled to Corinth
448 BC - Perdiccas II ascended to the Macedonian throne
446 BC - Ducetius returned from exile to Sicily to found Kale Akte on the northern coast
446/5 BC - Sybaris was destroyed by Croton once again; the growing power of the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace forced the Athenians to founded the colony of Brea somewhere on the lower reaches of the Strymon River 
445 BC - Akragas was defeated in battle by the Syracusans; the Athenians and Spartans agreed to the Thirty Year’s Peace treaty; the Sybarites approached Sparta and Athens for help; Leontini and Rhegium concluded diplomatic alliances with Athens
444 BC - The Athenians consolidated and reorganized their empire into five tribute paying areas (including Thrace, the Hellespont, Ionia, Caria, and the Aegean Islands)
444/3 BC - Panhellenic colony of Thurii was founded
442/1 BC - Thurii was defeated in battle by Taras
441/0 BC - Samos quarreled with Miletus
440 BC - Ducetius died from natural causes, the remnants of the Sicel federation were destroyed by Syracusans; the Samians defeated the Milesians, who then appealed to Athens for help; Samos refusal to meet Athens' demands caused them to revolt from the empire and seek aid from the new Persian satrap of Ionia and Caria, Pissuthnes
440/439 BC - Pericles led a nine month siege of Samos, bringing the rebellion to an end
439 BC - The Athenians reorganized their empire once again into four tribute paying areas (Thrace, the Hellespont, Ionia/Caria, and the Aegean Islands)
438 BC - the Archaianaktidai of the Bosporan Kingdom overthrown by Spartokos
438/7 BC - Series of legal and judicial attacks were made on Pericles and his friends
437/6 BC - The Athenians founded the colony of Amphipolis on the upper Strymon River; Pericles led a peaceful expedition into the Black Sea, most likely to secure the continued grain trade with the new Spartokidai dynasty of the Cimmerian Bosporus 
436/5 BC - Civil war broke out in Epidamnus (in northwest Greece) between the oligarchs and democrats, who turned to Corcyra and Corinth for aid
435 BC - Corcyra and Corinth went to war over the fate of Epidamnus; the Corcyraean navy defeated the Corinthian navy at the Battle of Cape Leukimme
434 BC - Athens backed Philip I in his quest to rid Perdiccas II from the Macedonian throne
434/3 BC - the Delphic oracle claimed Thurii for Apollo
433 BC - Athens concluded a defensive alliance with Corcyra; the naval battle of Sybota took place which ended in a stalemate but saw Athens and Corinth fight one another (straining the peace); the naval leaders were Lacadaemonius (Athens) and Aristeas (Corinth)
431 BC - Spartokos died and his son Satyros succeeded him as the Bosporan king

Greek words: aitiai (grievances), diaphorai (disputes), prophasis (truest explanation), apoikia (colony), oikistes (colony founder), proxenos (a kind of honorary consul who looked after the interests of another state's citizens in their own city-state), stasis (civil war), symmachia (an offensive and defensive alliance), epimachia (a defensive alliance only)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

088 - Thucydides and Periclean Politics

In this episode, we discuss the life, influences, drawbacks, and positives of the “Father of Scientific History”, Thucydides; and the domestic political scene in Athens in the late 440s and early 430s BC, including the ostracism of Thucydides (not the historian) and the series of personal and judicial attacks on Pericles and his three closest associates (Phidias, Aspasia, and Anaxagoras)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

087 - Rhetoric and the Sophists

In this episode, we describe the development of rhetoric in the ancient Greek world as an art that could be studied and employed in the law courts and for political purposes, and its importance especially in Classical Athens; the roles and various opinions of the Sophists, who were lecturers that traveled from city to city, teaching not only rhetoric but also all of the other important subjects that were not being covered by an Athenians’ traditional education; and the lives, influences, writings, and various theories put forth by the earliest Rhetoricians and Sophists, including synopses on several of Plato's dialogues (Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias Major and Hippias Minor)

Rhetoricians and Sophists Discussed:
Korax and Tisias of Syracuse (fl. mid-5th century BC)

Protagoras of Abdera (ca. 490-420 BC)
Gorgias of Leontini (ca. 485-375 BC)
Antiphon of Rhamnous (ca. 480-411 BC)
Hippias of Elis (ca. 460-400 BC)
Prodicus of Keos (ca. 465-390 BC)
Thrasymachus of Chalcedon (ca. 459-400 BC)

Primary Sources Discussed:

Greek words: rhetorike (rhetoric), rhetor (orator), logon techne (skill with arguments), sophia (wisdom), Sophistes (experts, literally “those who have become wise”), physiologoi (natural philosophers), physis (nature), nomos (law or custom), techne (art or skill), arete (excellence or virtue), macrologia (many words), paradoxologia (the idea of paradoxical thought and expression), schemata (figures of speech), isokolon (balanced clauses), antithesis (the joining of contrasting ideas), parison (the structure of successive clauses), homoeoteleuton (the repetition of word endings), epitaphios (funeral oration), topos (plausible argument), logos (logical), ethos (ethical), pathos (emotional), deiknunai (to show), epideiktikos ("showoff" speech), enkomion (praise), dunamis (power), logographoi (speech writers), poly (many or much), mathes (having learned), polymathes (polymath, literally "someone who has learned a lot"), kalon (beauty or noble)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

**Special Guest Episode on Drinking and 'Sportsing' w/Amy Pistone**

This is the third episode in a series where I converse with Classicists about either books or articles that they have published, their current research interests, or just unique classes and topics that they are teaching and exploring further. 

In today's special guest episode, I am joined by Dr. Amy Pistone, Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics at Notre Dame University in South Bend, INHer dissertation, titled "When the Gods Speak: Oracular Communication and Concepts of Language in Sophocles", explores the misunderstanding of oracular or prophetic speech in Sophoclean tragedy and situates his plays within the intellectual context of late-5th century BC AthensHer primary research areas include Greek tragedy in general, Greek and Roman drinking culture, early Greek philosophy and scientific thought, women in the ancient world and feminist theory, reception and re-performance of ancient theater, and pedagogy. 

In particular, Dr. Pistone is interested in the role that drinking (both proper and improper) plays in the ancient Greek world and uses this to reflect on the modern world. She has presented several papers (including "The DYskoleteron Δυσκολώτερον Σκόλιον: A New Model of the Skolion Game in Antiquity" and “Take a Joke, Take a Drink: Ancient Greek Drinking Culture”) and has taught several classes to that effect (including "Drinking (and) Culture in the Ancient World" and "Intoxicating Poetry")She also has an interest in ancient athletics, and when she is not molding the minds of future classicists, she referees collegiate football and basketball games. So due to the unique confluence of these two interests, I invited Dr. Pistone on to talk about ancient Greek drinking culture with a side of sports, aka how college students can relate to the ancient Greeks.

Here are some of the images mentioned in the episode:

An image of “kottabos with a pole” getting set up

A sassy kottabos player

What might be a specialized kottabos cup

And some great vases with women having parties!

One of Dr. Pistone's favorite silly vases!

Recommended Bibliography

Goldman, Max L."Associating the Aulêtris: Flute Girls and Prostitutes in the Classical Greek Symposium." Helios, vol. 42 no. 1, 2015, pp. 29-60.

Slater, W.J. "Symposium at Sea". Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 80 (1976), pp. 161-170.

Topper, Kathryn. "The Imagery of the Athenian Symposium". Cambridge University Press (2012).

  • Vickers, Michael. "A Kottabos cup in Oxford". American Journal of Archaeology 78 (1974).

Sunday, December 23, 2018

086 - Early Astronomy

In this episode, part four of four on a series on Greek philosophy, mathematics, and science in the 5th century BC, we describe the earliest astronomical observations and calculations in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt and their influence on ancient Greek astronomy; the various planets and star constellations found in Greek literature, as well as the origins of the Zodiac; the earliest Greek astronomical speculations of the universe found in Greek mythology (Homer and Hesiod) and in Pre-Socratic philosophy; the Pythagorean model of the universe put forward by Philolaus; and the astronomical calculations made by Oenopides and Meton

File:Boötes IAU.svg
File:Big dipper from the kalalau lookout at the kokee state park in hawaii.jpg
File:Ursa Major IAU.svg
File:Hyades 40°N.png
File:Orion IAU.svg

Recommended Podcast Episodes for Further Listening: