Today is Valentine’s Day, and for the first time in many years I have no plans.
Oops. Let me revise that…
Today is Valentine’s Day, and for the first time in many years I have no plans! I get to put my feet up, read a whole book in one sitting, even buy chocolates and eat them all myself. I understand that for many single people Valentine’s Day can be lonely and distressing – but I’m still reveling in the luxury of being able to wear fluffy slippers all evening and not having to wash my hair.
And because I am a free agent, I can legitimately engage with an Important Question which I feel is underexplored in the scholarly literature. Namely…
When my time machine appears, which Romans will I go back in time to date?
It’s a tricky one, I’m sure you’ll agree; mainly because I have to rule out Tacitus. I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and there’s simply no way round it. I can’t date Tacitus. If we were to hit it off (which of course we would), and Tacitus wanted to marry me instead of his wife, then it’s highly unlikely that he would then choose to write his biography of the Roman general Agricola, who became his father-in-law. There’s a chance, then, that if I were to date Tacitus I would erase the Agricola and perhaps Tacitus’ whole literary career in consequence. And if Tacitus didn’t write anything, then I would not have chosen to study Classics, and this website would be erased from existence.
All we need is a DeLorean and we’ve got ourselves a movie.
So Tacitus is out of the running, and that makes the whole question much more challenging, because I’m not at all sure about how my other favourite writers would work out as romantic partners. Horace, for instance. Fabulous poet – witty, charming and clever. But I’d spend all my time shouting at him to stop lazing around under a tree and do something useful. And then there’s Ovid, of course. While I love his work, I’m none too sure that I would love his company – particularly in public, given some of his advice to readers.
Livy – no. Just… no.
Seneca? Too grim.
Propertius? To be honest, he irritates me just a bit.
Catullus? Definitely not. I don’t think it would be wise to challenge Lesbia – she seems like the sort of girl who stabs her enemies with a brooch pin and buries them in the garden.
I have considered Cicero. Yes, I know; he would be extremely annoying after a while, and I don’t fancy the prospect of all those years of hearing how he single-handedly saved the State. But he must have been striking on first acquaintance, and he certainly knew how to talk. I’d be willing to go out to dinner with him – but probably just the once, and I might climb out the bathroom window halfway through the evening. Same for Pliny – and I’d be careful not to give him my address, in case he started writing letters to me…
What about Virgil? I’ve been pondering this for a while. Great storyteller – but there’s something a bit worrying about the way he kills off the women in the Aeneid. If I found myself stuck in a burning city, I’m not sure I’d want to rely on him to help me get out. Granted, that might not be a typical date – but it’s good to be prepared for all eventualities.
Obviously I’m automatically ruling out the imperial family, including Julius Caesar. There’s enough drama in my life without adding megalomania, madness and murder to it.
So I have yet to come up with the answer – which is undoubtedly why Future Me hasn’t sent the time machine yet. Once I do get it figured out, I’ll wake up one day to find it sitting in the middle of my living room.
But for now, I’m content with my quiet Valentine’s Day. I’m particularly happy this week because I’ve just found out that I’m going to be presented with an Open University ‘Recognition of Excellence in Teaching’ award, in recognition of the work I’ve put into this website! There will be a ceremony, apparently, and a prize – and somebody wants to make a video with me in it (which I find slightly worrying). Maybe there’ll be a golden crown too. More on all of that later, I’m sure. In the meantime – thank you all for making this website such a success, and so much fun to run!
This week’s links from around the Classical Internet
Earliest resident of Durham – BBC News
Activist Trojan horse at the British Museum – Artnet News
2,000-year-old seeds – The Atlantic
Comment and opinion
Political autonomy and Medusa – Ostraka
How to be a terrible leader – Forge
A Tale of Two Elgins – Classical Inquiries
Nausicaa pyxis – o pietas animi
Greek in the House of Commons – Laudator Temporis Acti
Minor characters in tragedy – The Conversation
Boris and Roman emperors – The Conversation
Ancient Athens and Trump – The Spectator
Did we really find Pliny’s skull? – The Daily Beast
Myth and women – The Historian’s Hut
Society and theology in the Iliad – Novo Scriptorium
Romosexuality – The Conversation
Valentine lessons from Ovid – Forbes
Podcasts, video and other media
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest – In Our Time
Penelope, weaver of Fate – Ancient Greece Declassified
Lupercalia – Emperors of Rome
Sex and gender – The Endless Knot
Bloomsbury book sale till Sunday – Bloomsbury Academic
And from Twitter, some Academic Valentines…
Not all roses are red
Universalizations are problematic
Gender, race, and ability
Are not categories that are static
Roses are Red 
Violets are Blue [please revise; see editor’s note]
Romance may be dead [one of the peer-reviewers thought this needed expansion]
But I still love you [it’s against the journal’s policies to publish political statements]
Roses are red
[See below for full text purchase options]
Roses are red,
But Augustus not mellow;
At Quinctilius Varus
Loud did he bellow.
Some Loebs are green
Some Loebs are red
My favourite is Martial
I take him to bed!
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
12 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Love and Romans”
Agrippa! You get to go the fancy parties but with a man with strategic thinking AND who knows how to get stuff done. ❤️❤️
Why didn’t I think of that?!
Please, please, please consider Augustus – then, when you come back you can confirm that Robert Graves had you, as Livia, spot on. Oh I do hope so. Anyway, pass the figs…..
Oh, there’s a thought…! I’d be an inadvertent Livia- my cooking’s terrible!
Justly deserved award 🥇 I’m really pleased you’re getting due recognition for the website 👍👏 For a Valentine’s Day school magazine feature, where I was teaching many moons ago, students asked staff ‘What does love mean to you?’ My answer was ‘it’s the first verb I learnt in Latin’. This was considered uninspiring!
Uninspiring but unarguable!
Thank you – it’s nice to get some official credit for all the unofficial things I get up to!
In the classical world.. Anyte of Tegea would be my choice, even though I often end up sailing towards the Sirens.
Well done on getting the award, you deserve it.
Thank you! An interesting and obscure choice…!
Well done on the well deserved award. Thanks to this regular update I’m reading lots of things I wouldn’t have otherwise seen…. and I always love your forewords.
Thank you! 🙂
Achilles, he actually could look like Brad Pitt….
I’d automatically ruled him out – but maybe I was too hasty…!