RSS Feed

On the merits of learning German

Happy news! I’ve just started learning German! I signed up for a super-intensive course (with the Goethe Institute, Melbourne) that runs all day each day from Monday to Friday this week.

DSC08521_3

There are so many good reasons to learn German if you like Classics. Perhaps you’ve realised everyone is citing German academics. Name any topic on Greece and Rome, and some German mastermind somewhere has written an immensely important monograph work on that very area. Mention this to anyone who isn’t a Classicist and they’ll reply with a slightly confused “huh?” and ask what Germany has to do with the Romans and Greeks anyway. Good question.

Continue reading →

Saint Nicholas through the Ages

"Sanctus Nicholaus, Nautarum Protector" (Saint Nicholas, Protector of Sailors) Mosaic of St Nicholas in Westminster Cathedral in London. Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew http://gcaptain.com/maritime-monday-dec-twentyfourth-twentytelve-christmas/

“Sanctus Nicholaus, Nautarum Protector” (Saint Nicholas, Protector of Sailors), Westminster Cathedral, London. (Source)

How did a Saint from Western Turkey become an elf-Lord driving reindeer around the North Pole? The journey of St. Nicholas through time, space and cultures has transformed this pious bishop of Myra into Santa: a secular, round-bellied, cheerful caricature of modern consumerism. How, exactly, did he get from there to here? And does anything of the original Nick remain in our Mr. Claus?

Continue reading →

Moving words: which languages have the closest word order to Ancient Greek?

There’s an art to translation. It involves moving concepts from one language into another while trying to refit the same thought into a different set of grammar rules. In this study I’d like to look at one obvious part of the translation process: word order change. In studying this, I don’t mean to suggest that the inevitable changes in word order are necessarily bad or represent the degree to which information is lost in the act of translation. Quite the opposite. Where it is needed, the word order should change so that the meaning can be properly conveyed. Otherwise, there would be no point in translating anything.

Art of Conversation II (L'Art de la conversation II), Rene Magritte, 1950

Art of Conversation II (L’Art de la conversation II), Rene Magritte, 1950

What I want to investigate is how much the word order changes when translating a passage from Ancient Greek (specifically Koine) into various other languages. For instance, how closely can a Latin translation mirror Greek word order? Are Romance languages any closer to Greek word order than Germanic languages? Was medieval English more similar to Koine Greek syntax than contemporary English? And roughly how close is Modern Greek to its ancestor?

In this study, I’ll explore how much word order change occurs in several published translations of the same Koine Greek sample text, analysing eleven translations spread out over six languages: Latin, English, German, French, Mandarin Chinese, and Modern Greek. What I like about studying word order is that it’s a fairly obvious part of the language and you can see it move around. This is not a subtle study about ineffable shifts in semantics. It’s a crude, chunky experiment looking at how blocks of data move positions in different languages to express more or less the same thing according to different syntax rules. Although the sample text is short, at least this exercise can give a taste of how similar and distant the various languages are to Ancient Greek in this particular respect.

Continue reading (2,608 words) →

Textception

textceptionmotivational

You know what’s my pet peeve? Scholars who cite fragmentary sources by their fragment numbers only.

Continue reading →

The Melitan Miniature Dog: The most popular lapdog in antiquity

Chous, Melitan dog with grapes, ca. 450 - 435 BC (Source

Chous, Melitan dog with grapes, ca. 450 – 435 BC (Source)

There is something so disarming, so human, about reading that the ancient Greeks and Romans kept dogs as pets – not just as hunting hounds, but also as tiny companions. The Melitan, while it is not the only kind of miniature dog mentioned in surviving texts (a “Gallic miniature dog” was named once in Martial’s epigrams),[1] it is by far the most the most prolific miniature dog in artistic depictions and literary sources.

Continue reading (4,382 words) →

My dearest subscribers,

Fished Up Classics will soon be known under a new name, Found in Antiquity.

The new site mascot. The old one, by the way, was taken from the Anchovy page on Wikipedia.

The new site mascot. The old one, by the way, was taken from the Anchovy page on Wikipedia.

It was a difficult decision to make, but I believe the long term gain will be worth today’s hassle. It feels scary, in a way, like I might be starting all over again. Has it only really been 4 months since I began this blog?

But I do feel much better about this new name. It makes more sense to me at first glance. If I mention the name to strangers or lecturers, I don’t have to hold my breath and hope they understand that it doesn’t have anything to do with fishing or eating fish or hooking things on fishhooks. It sounds silly, since most people who heard the name didn’t think of that. But I really did get sick of having “Fished Up” at the start of the title.

I’ve also taken this opportunity to buy the domain name, “foundinantiquity.com”.

Within the next few days or so I will also purchase a 301 redirect service, which will smooth this transition phase considerably.

Hold tight, update your bookmarks, and I’ll see you soon with another post – a post about Melitan or “Maltese” miniature dogs in antiquity!

Orpheus and the Can-can

How on earth could the Can-can dance have anything to do with the myth of Orpheus?

I’m sure you’ve heard and seen the Can-can before, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 150 years, here’s a demonstration:

The Can-can was a type of bawdy Parisian dance popular in the nineteenth century, and it could be performed to a variety of musical settings. Now this is where the classical connection comes in. The most famous tune for the Can-can, the one shown above, was written in 1858 by Jacques Offenbach for his operetta Orpheus in the Underworld. The dance was originally titled the Infernal Galop and was first performed (with the famous tune) by actors pretending to be the Olympian gods and Orpheus’ beloved Eurydice.

Australian production of Orpheus in the Underworld. Picture by Lisa Tomasetti (Source) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/music/orpheus-in-the-underworld-returns-more-fun-than-before/story-fn9d2mxu-1226588535775

Australian production of Orpheus in the Underworld. Picture by Lisa Tomasetti (Source)

Continue reading →

The Weasel in Antiquity: Pet or Pest?

Hand colored engraving, published in Edinburgh, 1838. (Source: Art Resource)

Least Weasels. Hand colored engraving, published in Edinburgh, 1838. (Source: Art Resource)

It’s a nice time for a light-hearted piece, and I’ve been dying to write this article for a while. It’s about pet weasels in antiquity. A surprising amount of respectable scholarship all the way from 1718 to 1997 has claimed that the Greeks and Romans kept tame weasels as household pets. At the very least, there is good evidence that weasels lived and nested in the houses of ancient Greeks and Romans. But to claim that weasels were kept as tame, domesticated pets requires more evidence from the sources than simply evidence that they wandered around in human houses. This article will examine the evidence for the taming of various members of the weasel family. Remarkably, the marten seems to have been tamed at least once before Aristotle. There is also evidence that the polecat, the ancestor of our ferret, was tamed for hunting purposes by at least the first century AD. But what of the little red creatures we know and love as “weasels”? Were they pets or pests in the eyes of the Greeks and Romans?

Continue reading →

Top ten Fayum Portraits

At the moment, I’m in full flurry of editing my Classics Honours thesis which is due on Monday. Enjoy these Fayum mummy portraits while I prep my thesis! What strikes me about these is the incredible individuality of each of these faces. It’s like the coloured, painted equivalent of looking at Roman statue busts where […]

Rape Culture in Classical Mythology

Tarquinius und Lucretia, Hans von Aachen, ca. 1600

Tarquinius und Lucretia, Hans von Aachen, ca. 1600

I’m a little ambivalent about putting this take-home exam essay I wrote in second year up on the blog. On the one hand, it’s something I’ve thought about posting up for a while. On the other, I feel that even though I’ve learned more about Classics and grown as a person since second year, I still find this essay disturbing in many ways. It’s an answer to the question, “Why did Greek and Roman myths have so much rape in them?” A nasty subject at the best of times. But I’ve weighed up my options, and found two reasons why I feel this was worth posting.

Firstly, there’s a bit of bragging on my part. I’m pretty sure this is one of the highest marked essays I ever wrote in my first three years of undergraduate study. It was graded in the 90’s (whereas any mark over 80 would have put the essay in the top 10%). That didn’t necessarily happen because it was the best essay I wrote, but it was very well received by the university. Feminist essays are satisfying like that. I don’t think there’s any other ideology that the university would be happy to see you jump on your figurative high-horse and lambast your ideological opponents with. Looking back, I wonder if this essay is slightly overdone at times; but your reading of it may vary. Clearly my examiners very much enjoyed it.

The second reason I have for posting it here is that this essay very much resonates with the modern issue of Rape Culture. In the twenty-first century, we’re still consuming so many stories, films and TV series which shove images of violent, pushy, rapey sex in our faces, whenever directors want to make sex look more exciting or the protagonists more virile. I would say that these rapey depictions of sex are cheap thrills in movies, but they’re worse than that. The movies we watch tap into a deeper narrative which justifies a rape as understandable, that it’s the normal way for a man to react to seeing a woman – that woman – the one who takes your fancy, the one who’s dressed just slutty enough, the one who’s supposedly asking for it.

Continue reading →