Classicists are usually vaguely aware that the study of ancient literature is a very, very old field of research, and that it used to be merged with the study and exposition of Christian theology. It is rare, however, for a Classicist to actually come up against past scholarship and see firsthand what kind of work that that unholy (or holy?) union had once produced. More often, modern Classicists are looking uncomfortably at each other, trying to spy latent “Christianizing” approaches in their own work, without actually having a clear definition of what could constitute a “Christianizing” approach in the first place.
Monthly Archives: September 2013
The greatest philosophers of the ancient world were celebrated not just for their voluminous writings on arcane topics, but also for their eccentric lives and witty sayings. They were geniuses, and yet were also remembered as charismatic oddballs. Perhaps, then, it’s not surprising that there were so many bizarre tales about the means of their deaths. Below I’ve selected what seemed to be the five most incredible tales of the deaths of the philosophers, all dutifully recorded by the gossiper and historian Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of the Philosophers.
5. Empedocles, 484-424 BC
Jumped into a volcanic crater.
What’s this? A creative piece, you say?
You’re spot on. This is a dialogue between Cicero and my supervisor at uni, Assoc. Prof. Parshia Lee-Stecum. I originally wrote it for Orpheus, the publication of MUCLASS (Melbourne University Classics and Archaeology Students Society). I was a little worried that my supervisor might not like it… Cicero does get a bit bitey with his replies! But thankfully it gave Parshia a chuckle and he said it was a good satire. In the end, I’m satisfied with the result.
As a senator of MUCLASS, I’m very proud of our first publication. The rest of Orpheus is full of amazing entries, including ancient recipes, Latin poetry, historical fiction, brilliant essays and much more. Do go and check it out on our new blog at muclass.wordpress.com – if you like anything classical or archaeological, I am sure you will enjoy it.
(CICERO knocks on the door to Assoc. Prof. Parshia Lee-Stecum’s office, which is half-open.)
PARSHIA: Oh, please come in, Marcus.
CICERO: (lingers in the doorway, somewhat affronted)
PARSHIA: Marcus? (glances at paper) Sorry, you’re Marcus Tullius Cicero, right?
CICERO: Well of course. I’m just astonished that anyone could be so barbaric as to call an unfamiliar by his praenomen.
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Theology students have it harder in other areas, but not in learning Greek. While I’m struggling through Plato and Herodotus, they’re generally translating shorter, more straightforward sentences. The nerve of them! Don’t they have to deal with bizarre verb forms, multiple dependent clauses, and the general uppitiness of the writers? Instead, they’re translating the stuff that sweaty-armpitted fishermen wrote so that other unwashed fisherman could understand. The New Testament was written in Koine so that it would be wonderfully accessible to anyone who would listen. But don’t take my word for it. Learn Attic, and it may drive you temporarily insane: Koine Greek is a cinch.