Weekend Reading: Caesar’s Secrets

It’s been another one of those disturbing weeks, with classicists taking to the internet to highlight scandals and injustices, and with a full complement of classical-political lunacy.

The Paideia drama continues to rumble on (for those UK classicists who may not have been following, the Paideia Institute is a US-based Latin-teaching organisation which claims to be inclusive – but which apparently has been anything but), with the withdrawal of support from several large organisations. The rumours about Oxford classicist Dirk Obbink’s involvement in the wanderings of certain papyrus fragments have become full-blown accusations and have hit the mainstream media.

On a slightly more frivolous note, many classicists were incensed by an article this week which compared Donald Trump to Tiberius Gracchus – partly because the article didn’t quite have the historical details straight (to put it mildly), but mainly I suspect because Gracchus still has quite a fan club. And then President Trump himself managed to trump all the Trump/Roman comparisons in a speech this week, in which he claimed that America’s ties with Italy go back to Ancient Rome. Finally, Boris Johnson chose to compare Jeremy Corbyn to the two-faced god Janus – which, as many pointed out, was rather an own goal, since Janus is a pretty cool god.




My award for ‘silliest news item of the week’, however, goes not to Boris, or to President Trump, but to a lovely article I stumbled across from the Daily Express, which excitedly announces a ‘Stonehenge breakthrough’ and the revelation of Druid ‘secrets’ in a ‘letter’ by Julius Caesar. Sadly it doesn’t seem that there has been a breakthrough, a discovery of great secrets, or even a letter: it was just a reporter learning something he hadn’t known before from a documentary. But in a way that just makes it better. The headline could, in fact, be rewritten to read ‘ROMAN LITERATURE TURNS OUT TO BE REALLY INTERESTING!!!’.

The article helpfully provided an illustration of ‘Caesar’s letter from 50BC’…




… along with a picture of Julius Caesar…




I laughed so hard at those that I spilled my tea.

In real life, my own week hasn’t been exactly peaceful. With six new student groups, plus various additional jobs, I’ve been teaching till late every night this week, to the point where I’ve lost my voice again (not good, since I have another tutorial in a couple of hours…). If I haven’t replied to your email yet, that’s why: I’ve built up quite a backlog (and if you ring me right now, I’ll only be able to croak down the phone!). However, this week has reminded me of how brilliant my job is. It’s been fabulous to meet so many new people excited about Classics, from all over the world. So a warm welcome to all my new readers – it’s great to have you here!




This week’s links from around the Classics Internet



Pompeii ‘fighting fresco’ – The Guardian 

Pictish beasts – BBC

Putin is Caesar now – The Independent

Bronze age slavery – Cosmos Magazine 

Discovery of chariot with horses – Total Croatia News 

Airborne laser archaeology – BBC 

Papyrus scandal – EES 

…covered in The Telegraph

…and The Guardian 

Hecuba in Dublin – The Stage 

Partying in The Bacchae – New York Times 

Greeks and Mozart? – The Guardian 


Best grammar tip of the week



Comment and opinion

Comparative literature – The British Academy 

Geography in Herodotus and Thucydides – Histos 

Agrippa’s building projects – Time Travel- Ancient Rome 

The beginning of coinage – Coin Week

The gods according to Barbie – Ancient Blogger 

What did the Mesopotamians do for us? – UnHerd 

What did the Romans do for us? – Spectator USA 

Quirky Athens – BBC Culture 

Catholic Pompeii – The Jugaad Project 

Pompeii and outer space – Popular Science

Who was Achilles? – The British Museum Blog 

Latin Harry Potter – Antipodean Odyssey 

Rapping the Iliad – USC News 


Podcasts, video and other media

The rise and fall of Claudius – Nightlife 

Into the Iron Age – History of the World 

Cincinnatus, Suffect Consul – The Partial Historians


Events and journals

Calgacus in 2020 – Classical Reception Studies Network 

Oxford undergraduate Classics articles – Alexandria 

4 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Caesar’s Secrets

  1. Ovid (Fasti I) casts two-faced Janus as Chaos (or Chaos as two-faced Janus). It’s the Boris/Corbyn hybrid: the Brexit Monster (chuckle)! However, Ovid associates Janus/Chaos with civil war (no chuckle)…


    1. Well they didn’t take long!

      “Brexit anger: Chaos in Westminster as police forced to protect MPs ” (Express online; headline following today’s extraordinary Saturday sitting of Parliament)

      Liked by 1 person

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