Weird Classics

You may have been told that studying Classics is crazy, or pointless, or a shortcut to a life of penury and isolation without a single blog reader to call your own. Given that you’re still here, you probably didn’t care – or perhaps you didn’t believe the critics.

Well, they may not have been entirely wrong about the craziness. Every so often I encounter impressive evidence of theoretical and methodological weirdness, lurking out here on the fringes of Classical Studies. So here’s a round-up of some of my favourite Weird Classics theories, for you to investigate and enjoy when you have absolutely nothing useful to do!


1. Poseidon was an Alien

The ‘Ancient Aliens’ or ‘Ancient Astronauts’ theory proposes that aliens with advanced technology may have come to Earth a very long time ago. Our ancestors’ perception of the aliens as gods with divine abilities explains many mythologies around the world, including Greek mythology. It’s a familiar and beloved trope to those of us who like our Science Fiction (Stargate, anyone? Also, of course, X Files, Quatermass, Thor, and the wonderful Star Trek episode ‘Who Mourns for Adonais?’, among many others), but I’m never very thrilled when it’s used as a supporting argument in an essay!


2. Augustus was a Poet-Killer

‘…the real question is not why Augustus killed Virgil, but rather why he did not kill him sooner’. For a detailed discussion of the theory that Augustus murdered Virgil (and Horace, and Tibullus, and probably other poets too), take a look at this fascinating website, which weaves all sorts of ancient sources into a conspiracy theory of murder and mayhem. It’s a great example of how you can use primary evidence to support almost any interpretation!


3. The Greeks and Romans never existed

This is one of my very favourite weird theories. It’s based around the idea that human civilization is not nearly as old as we think it is, and that all of ancient history was fabricated in the Middle Ages to serve the interests of those in power. Called the ‘New Chronology’, it’s presented in a vast seven-volume work by Russian mathematician Anatoly Fomenko, in collaboration with other mathematicians, although the core idea goes back to at least the seventeenth century. In 2004 Fomenko’s work was awarded the ‘Certificate of Dishonour’ for the worst book published in Russia. Take a look, and see it as a brilliant demonstration of how evidence can be twisted out of all recognition by the writer’s agenda!

If you know of any other Weird Classics theories, leave a comment in the box below – I’m always on the look-out for new silliness!



Cora Beth Knowles

One thought on “Weird Classics

  1. I’d add just about any literalist interpretation of ancient myth to the list of weird classics (and Hollywood depictions certainly don’t help either!) Some of the Assyrian fire altar cylinders sure look as if they have sort of UFOs floating overhead!

    There’s a corner of youtube with this “Renaissance invented Greece & Rome” stuff. I suppose the line of thinking is that artists like Michelangelo didn’t just copy ancient sculpture but came up with it in the first place (and then copied it!) I wonder if Formenko has done the “How we know what we know” Open Uni block?


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