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Article

gender  

Laura McClure

Gender, the social construction of sexual difference, was central to how the Greeks and Romans understood themselves and explained their world. Classical texts and visual media, almost exclusively created by men, articulate gender norms based on biological sex, representing them as critical to the construction and maintenance of social and political hierarchies. At the same time, they explore the rupture of these categories through gender-fluid figures that challenge the boundaries of anatomical sex and social categories, like the gynaecocratic warrior women, the Amazons; or the Galli, the castrated male followers of the goddess Cybele; and the ambiguously sexed hermaphrodites. The blind seer Teiresias transforms from a man into a woman and back again, experiencing two sexualities in the process (Ov. Met. 3.314). The woman Caenis requests to be turned into a man after her brutal rape by the god Apollo, so that she might never be sexually violated again (Ov.

Article

Emma Cole

Ancient drama has had a vast influence upon the literary, performance, and intellectual culture of modernity. From ancient Greece thirty-two tragedies, eleven comedies, and one satyr play survive, and from ancient Rome ten tragedies and twenty-seven comedies remain, alongside countless fragments from all genres. Many of the surviving plays are staged in contemporary theatre in both literal translation and more liberal adaptation, and today more ancient drama is seen in professional theatres than at any point since antiquity. Although all ancient dramatic genres have a rich reception history, Greek tragedy dominates the field, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. Productions of Greek tragedy today range from masked performances in the original language through to radical, avant-garde, immersive, and postdramatic reinventions. Greek tragedy is also frequently used as a touchstone within literary theory and broader intellectual discourse, from the theorisation of the ideal form of performance (Wagner’s Gesamtkuntswerk) to the development of psychoanalytic theory (Freud’s Oedipus complex) and structuralism (Lévi-Strauss). Ancient drama has also provided inspiration for entirely new dramatic forms; the influence of Roman tragedy, for example, can be felt within the revenge tragedies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, while traces of Roman comedy can be felt in slapstick comedy and Italian commedia dell’arte. Current growth areas within both artistic practice, and academic research into the reception of ancient drama, include the performance reception of dramatic fragments, an increased interest in forms such as burlesque and pantomime, and the use of ancient drama as a tool of resistance against oppressive political regimes.

Article

Boudica  

Louise Revell

Boudica is remembered as the leader of the British tribes during the rebellion against the Romans in 60/61 ce. Her exploits are described in accounts by Tacitus and Dio, although there is some inconsistency between them. There is no direct, contemporary evidence from Britain itself for her life, although the archaeological evidence can provide some context. The slim evidence for her life has not prevented her becoming an iconic figure in British history. Consequently, it could be argued that the real Boudica is less significant than the multiple Boudicas and Boadiceas created in histories and fictional accounts which range from the Roman historians themselves to the Horrible Histories film. This making and remaking of her image has formed an important element in the scholarship about her.The textual evidence for Boudica and the revolt of the southern tribes of Britain is limited and problematic. All the accounts are from outside Britain itself or post-Roman. The fullest accounts are in .

Article

Gideon Nisbet

Classical antiquity echoes through everyday life, and is continuously being mediated for and consumed by mass culture and subcultures; these popular representations shape, and are shaped by, non-specialist understandings of antiquity. Empowered by new media, diverse constituencies (including cult media audiences and minorities, but also ethnic-nationalists and hate groups) interrogate antiquity through its reception history to find versions of ‘Greece’ and ‘Rome’ that help develop their own agendas. As a recent and developing specialisation informed by trends in cultural and media studies, the academic study of classical reception in popular culture poses new challenges for, and breathes new life into, the discipline of Classics. After a slow start, such study has embraced mass and ‘cult’ media including television, videogames, popular music, comics and graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy, and children’s and young adult (YA) fiction. Scholarly rebuttals of appropriations of antiquity by hate groups are re-engaging Classics with the politics of representation (of the past, and of ourselves and each other) in the here and now.

Article

S. Douglas Olson

The Deipnosophistai (“Learned Banqueters”) of Athenaeus of Naucratis (fl. c. 200 ce)—nominally an account of a great dinner party or series of dinner parties in Rome—preserves an enormous number of fragments of otherwise lost Greek literature. On a superficial level, the text is concerned with luxury, and it accordingly offers rich anecdotal treatments of banqueting customs, fish, cakes, cups, sexuality, and the like, along with a wealth of detailed philological observations. Its larger interest is in recalling the extraordinary wealth of the Greek literary and cultural tradition, and in using that tradition to discuss contemporary intellectual, literary, and social issues. The text is preserved in a single manuscript whose gaps can be partially filled from an ancient epitome.Athenaeus was the author of the Deipnosophistai (“Dinner-sophists,” i.e. “Learned Banqueters”), a massive compendium of ancient Greek literature in the guise of a report of events at a great dinner party or series of dinner parties. His .

Article

Laura Mecella

Eustathius of Epiphania (modern-day Hama, Syria), late 5th–early 6th ce. He authored a lost summary of universal history in Greek, known only from Evagrius Scholasticus, John Malalas, the Suda, and Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos (14th century). It seems likely that both Evagrius and Malalas had direct access to it, while the Suda knew its existence only from Hesychius of Miletus’s Table of Eminent Writers (Onomatologos). We do not know the details of the link with Nicephorus, who quotes Eustathius in a passage concerning Theodosius II’s reign and Attila’s campaigns against the Romans (Historia ecclesiastica 14.57). A Patmos manuscript attests the existence of Eustathius’s work as late as the 13th century, so such direct access by Nicephorus cannot be ruled out.1 However, Nicephorus’s narrative is based on several different sources, and it is impossible to identify what could have been taken from Eustathius.2 Furthermore, the possibility that many fragments of John of Antioch’s Chronological History preserve a large part of Eustathius’s work has little credibility: according to this hypothesis, both John Malalas and John of Antioch would have drawn widely on Eustathius’s history, copying it extensively.

Article

Isabelle Torrance

Euripides was a key figure in the development of ancient drama, and the continuing impact of his work on modern forms of theatre cannot be underestimated. His tragedies were dramaturgically innovative and intellectually challenging. Divine epiphanies, emotionally charged debate scenes, and novel musical performances are all typical in Euripides. Several of his plays exploit the sort of disaster-averted scenario that was one of Aristotle’s favourite plot types and that flourished in operatic adaptations of classical myths. Pointed theological and philosophical questions are raised by characters in Euripides’ plays, and this radical aspect of Euripidean drama explains both why he was a target for contemporary comedians, notably Aristophanes, and why he was dismissed by Nietzsche and others in the nineteenth century. The past century, however, has seen a renewed and reinvigorated appreciation for Euripides, whose dramas have provided a valuable medium not only for artistic expression and experimentation but also for engaging with pressing contemporary social and political issues such as racial discrimination, warfare, postcolonialism, gender fluidity, and PTSD.

Article

Sarah Iles Johnston

Myths were told in a broad variety of contexts by a broad variety of people in ancient Greece. Unlike fairy tales and fables, Greek myths focus on specifically named individuals, such as Heracles and Athena, who interact with other such individuals across a span of different stories, creating a network of stories and characters. Although Greek myths explore many of the same plots and themes as other traditional tales, they were particularly interested in tales of heroes, metamorphosis, and love affairs between gods and human women. Ancient intellectuals interpreted myths as allegories or as distorted versions of real history. Modern scholars have used a variety of approaches to interpret Greek myths, most of which have been anchored in act of comparing them to the myths of other cultures: the ritualist approach, the structuralist approach, the psychoanalytical approach and narratological approaches. In the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in mythography and in the reception of Greek myths.

Article

What makes Alexander Great? His story has captured the imagination of authors, artists, philosophers, and politicians across more than two millennia. He has provided a point of convergence for religious and spiritual thinkers, he has been co-opted as a champion for gender and sexual openness, he represents a paradigm for would-be charismatic dictators (and their opponents), he gives us scientific imperialism and justification for conquistadorial dreaming, and he exemplifies the risks of cultural appropriation. To understand why Alexander resonates so widely across so many different fields of study, interest groups, and media, is an exercise in reception. This Alexander who has captured the imagination is triumphantly equivocal and it is in the plurality of traditions through which this complexity is expressed that his enduring “greatness” lies. The imaginary quality of Alexander is unsurprising because more profoundly than for any comparable individual from classical antiquity, his history is a product of reception from the start: every encounter with Alexander the Great is part of a conversation that depends substantially on accounts and narrative evidence from long after his death, and at the least at one remove from the historians who first and contemporaneously chronicled his life and achievements.

Article

opera  

Michael Ewans

Opera is one of the most important sites for the reception of Greek and Roman literature, history, and myth. Significant operas have been based on classical topics from the invention of the medium (Peri’s Eurydice, 1600) through to the present day. Important composers of classically based operas include Monteverdi, Handel, Gluck, Cherubini, Berlioz, Richard Strauss, Tippett, Henze and Turnage.The Florentine Camerata—a group of humanists, musicians and intellectuals—invented opera, at the end of the 16th centuryce. Its members believed that Greek tragedy was sung throughout, and sought to devise a new medium that would equal its perceived excellence. They had a preference for happy endings; the lyric poet Battista Guarini argued that, rather than purging pity and fear, as in Aristotle’s famous definition of tragedy, modern texts should aim to purge melancholy from the soul. The first operas (e.g., Peri's Eurydice, 1600) largely consisted of declamation, and it was only with Monteverdi's Venetian operas—.

Article

Queer theory takes its name from a derogatory term for persons considered “odd” or “abnormal”, notably those whose sexual behaviour, gender expression, or other characteristics do not conform to established social norms. It harnesses the experience and perspective of gender non-conformists and sexual deviants as a vantage point for understanding—and dismantling—the coercive workings of social structures and discursive regimes. Since queerness marks a position outside or at the margins of—and thus relative to—the social order, it necessarily takes on different forms under different normative regimes: while different kinds of queers have existed at all times and in all places, what counts as “queer” in any given time and place depends on what counts as “normal”.Ancient literature’s queerness, consequently, has two dimensions: (a) accounts—real and imagined—of sexual behaviours, erotic desires, intimate relationships, and notorious figures recognizably at odds with the sociosexual norms of Greece and Rome (“ancient queers”); and (b) accounts that, whatever their status in antiquity, appear strikingly odd in their later reception (“queer ancients”). These two dimensions can and do converge, as in the development of modern Western sexual identity categories (homosexual, bisexual, etc.), which drew heavily on ancient “case studies.”Frank about their committed stance in the present, queer readings of ancient literature interrogate interconnected formations and histories of misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, racism, and classism; ponder and celebrate pre-modern instances of resistance to sexual norms; and tap into the classical past in order to open new possibilities for erotic and social relations and subjectivities.

Article

Reception in historical novels set in ancient Greece and Rome differs fundamentally between the 19th and the 20th/21st centuries. In the 19th century, reception was governed heavily by imperial attitudes and religious controversies, particularly in regard to claims about the true Christian faith under the Roman Empire. Hence, novels set in Rome or the Roman Empire dominated the field. In the 20th century, attitudes to empire and religion were drastically revised in the wake of World War I. The growing authority of academic history in an age of scientific progress was another factor which helped to produce a decline in the reputation of historical fiction. Other changes, however, were more stimulating in nature, including the use of ancient Greece as a setting, more impressive source analysis, the rise of female novelists, different subjects and perspectives, and new social and sexual attitudes. These and other developments lifted the reputation of historical fiction once more.

Article

Feminism does not refer to one coherent theory, doctrine, or political movement. The range of movements and ideologies that thrive under the term feminism, however, are all committed to political and social change. Feminism recognises that we live in a patriarchal world, that is to say a world in which women are, and have historically been, oppressed by and unequal to men. It opposes this, and strives to change existing power structures so that people of all genders and races have control over their own bodies, have equal opportunities and value, can participate fully in community life, and are allowed to live with dignity and freedom.

What has this to do with ancient literature? There are several significant ways in which feminism and ancient literature interact. Ancient literature, particularly ancient Greek tragedy and myth, has played a formative role in shaping feminist theory. Feminism encourages scholars to uncover and reevaluate a tradition of women’s writing. Feminism has provided the tools for us better to understand how ancient literature functioned to promote, and sometimes to challenge, the misogynist practices of ancient Greek and Roman societies. Scholars have detected feminism, or proto-feminism, in ancient writing. Queer theory and feminism join forces to mine ancient literature for alternatives to hetero, cisgender, and gender binary models of identity. Feminism has changed the field of ancient literary studies by valuing authors and genres that are sensitive to the perspectives of women of all ethnicities and statuses. Finally, ancient literature is used to serve contemporary activism: Greek and Latin texts are used by modern feminist authors who rewrite and creatively adapt ancient literature, and classicists resist the use of ancient literature to promote misogyny and white supremacy.

Article

Monica S. Cyrino

Ancient Greece and Rome play starring roles as ideal sites for the iconic characters and plots that cinema and television use to depict the spectacle of the ancient world. The viewing audience is invited to experience the cinematic and televisual depiction of classical antiquity as it is deployed to accomplish a number of different objectives: the image of the ancient world on screen can be used to support contemporary political goals, to interrogate current social issues, or to engage in cultural debates about the modern world’s connection to the classical past. Since the ancient Greek and Roman worlds are frequently used as the visual and narrative backdrop for adventure and romance, the audience is often thrilled to view the luxury, decadence, and excess notoriously enjoyed by the uninhibited ancients. Viewers of films and television series about the ancient world remain engaged in a long and sometimes complex relationship with the representation of classical antiquity on screen, an engagement that has been well analyzed in the last few years by scholars and critics.

Article

The early modern period saw a tremendous revival in interest in ancient philosophy. New Platonic texts became available. New ways of analyzing Aristotle were explored. Stoic and Epicurean philosophy began to exert an influence on key thinkers. The impact of ancient philosophy was felt in a number of key areas, these included natural history, theology, and epistemology.The history of Western philosophy can be seen as a continuous and intensive dialogue with the past in which the texts of classical antiquity were tirelessly interrogated, imitated, praised, criticized, transformed, and zealously restored. The early modern period has a special place in this history. At the dawn of modernity, philosophical inquiries were deeply informed by the questions raised by the Greeks and Romans.Throughout the early modern period, the works of Aristotle and his commentators were the most prominent of the texts discussed. Plato enjoyed a more complex reception history. Recovered in the .

Article

race  

Denise Eileen McCoskey

Contrary to the assumptions of previous eras, since the late 20th century, race has been widely regarded as a form of identity based in social construction rather than biology. The concept of race has experienced a corresponding return to classical studies, although this approach gives it significant overlap with terminology like ethnicity and cultural identity. The ancient Greeks and Romans did not consider human biology or skin color the source of racial identity, although the belief that human variation was determined by the environment or climate persisted throughout antiquity. Ancient ethnographic writing provides insight into ancient racial thought and stereotypes in both the Greek and Roman periods. Race in the Greek world centered in large part around the emergence of the category of Greek alongside that of barbarian, but there were other important racial frameworks in operation, including a form of racialized citizenship in Athens. Modes for expressing racial identity changed in the aftermath of the campaigns of Alexander the Great, a figure whose own racial identity has been the subject of debate. In the Roman period, Roman citizenship became a major factor in determining one’s identity, but racial thought nonetheless persisted. Ideas about race were closely correlated with the Roman practice of empire, and representations of diverse racial groups are especially prominent in conquest narratives. Hellenistic and Roman Egypt provide an opportunity for looking at race in everyday life in antiquity, while Greek and Roman attitudes towards Jews suggest that they were perceived as a distinct group. Reception studies play a critical role in analyzing the continuing connections between race and classics.