Weekend Reading: The Distance Between Us

Well. We’re all now living in Interesting Times.

My son is fascinated by all of this. Often, when something unusual happens (like going up a level on a video game), he’ll announce, ‘This day will Go Down In History!’. But now that the schools are closing indefinitely, he’s starting to realise that these days actually will go down in history.

It’s not often we see history being made all around us, in such a conspicuous and uncomfortable way. I wonder how The Future will interpret our obsession with toilet rolls…





For me, it’s fascinating to watch universities and schools around the world shifting to online teaching and home working. At the OU we still have a few specific problems to work out – most notably, what we’re going to do about exams – but for the most part it’s simply business as usual.

People have been reaching out more, though. I’ve heard from a lot of people (students, colleagues, ex-students) who’ve gotten in touch just to check how I’m doing. Thank you to everyone who’s phoned or emailed or messaged me on Twitter! I’m doing ok, managing as best I can – just like everybody else on the planet, and a fair bit more privileged than some. At least working from home isn’t new to me!


The town has gone quiet – but at least there’s still plenty of sky to see from my window!


These connections between us are going to be important over the next few months, as we all adjust to a new and hopefully temporary ‘normal’. I’m going to do my best to help with that. I’ll keep this column going as a regular Friday night thing (health permitting), and please do join in with comments, even if you don’t have anything much to say!

I’ll also be starting another regular column, hopefully sometime next week, to cheer people up. And in the links below I’ll be focusing less on news items, and more on the fun stuff being put out there by people who are trying to provide for – or attract the attention of – all the folks stuck at home feeling fed up. I think we’ll see some great online opportunities over the coming weeks. If you find anything really good, do let me know!

Finally – today is Ovid’s birthday! I hope you’ll all join me in raising a glass to a poet who knew all about unwelcome Social Distancing!






This week’s links from around the internet


Just a shout-out here to the Rogue Classicist’s #Thelxinoe posts, which offer a daily round-up of links. If you’re in need of more reading, do check them out.


Comment and opinion

(Rather weighted towards virus-related commentary, I’m afraid!)

A Greek history of plagues – Neos Kosmos 

Quarantine in the Ancient World – Classical Wisdom Weekly 

Pandemics and panaceas –  Myth Crafts 

Cicero’s lessons for life – Counter Punch 

Cicero and Social Distancing – In Medias Res

Romans Stay Home – Eidolon

Xanthippe and the plague – Mappola

Thucydides and the plague – The Conversation

Sanity in a time of coronavirus – The Retiring Academic

Wishful Thinking – Sphinx

Mule vs Volcano – Roman Mysteries & Western Mysteries 

Teaching Metamorphoses 4 – Medium

Ovid’s Salmacis – OU Classical Studies Blog

Pliny’s skull – OUP Blog

Classics For All – Spectator Schools 

Special and inclusive teaching – Autism and Classical Myth

Distance learning in Classics – New Classicists

Careers for classicists – Society for Classical Studies



Podcasts, video and other media

Rome’s most lethal weapon – Ancient Greece Declassified 

Caligula and the invasion of Britain –Life of the Caesars

Piso and Plancina – I, Podius

Sounds of the Bodleian – Oxford University



Free online stuff

Classics at the OU – OU Classical Studies Blog

Ancient Greek YouTube tutorials – The Classics Library

Massolit free trial – Massolit

Ancient History GCSE Resources – ACE

Free online Egyptology courses – University of Manchester

Crowdsourced projects – Society for Classical Studies

In search of the Romans Quiz –Bloomsbury 

Free access to Cambridge textbooks till May – CUP 

Digital Loebs free to schools and universities – HUP via Twitter 

Online tours of Turkish museums –AA.com

Resources from Project Muse – MUSE 

Huge ‘In Our Time’ archive – BBC 

Free Eidolon course packets – Eidolon 

Interviews with curators – The British Museum on YouTube

Open access JSTOR stuff – University Times 

Free archaeology and history content – Google Docs 



13 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: The Distance Between Us

  1. Happy Birthday Ovid! I don’t really know much of his work but with things how they stand I shall be getting closer acquainted with the gentlemen as I’ve just signed up to A330 – Myths and Legends and Metamorphoses is one of the set books so with all this social distancing I’ll be able to give him my full attention without feeling guilty – at least once A340 is done and dusted! Do you have recommendations for any of his other works as an introduction to him?


    1. Hooray! A330 is one of my favourites!

      Metamorphoses is Ovid’s great masterpiece – and unlike a lot of masterpieces, it’s actually fun to read! Personally, I’d recommend his Amores too, for tongue-in-cheek love poetry! There’s a great translation/commentary on Amores 1 by Barsby – a bit dated, but really helpful.


      1. Thanks! I’ll take a browse through the internet and see if I can find a copy of the Barsby Amores.


    2. Although not Ovid and I don’t know whether Cora Beth would agree but my suggestion would be Robert Graves The Greek Myths. You can get them very reasonably (although I got mine, the Folio Society editions from Oxfam for £2!).

      I found them invaluable for the different versions of myth and, therefore, how they may have been manipulated.


      1. OOOO! I have the Graves on my book shelf I brought it last year thinking it might help with A229 and all the Greek myth type stuff but never got round to reading it! One for the Lock Down Reading Pile

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ovid’s birthday. Yay! 😃 He was born (20 Mar 43 BC) just five days after the first anniversary of Julius Caesar’s assassination (15 Mar [Ides thereof] 44 BC). And, if he was a month or so premature (perfectly possible) would have been conceived while Caesar’s soul was making its spectacular celestial ascent to take its place among the stars (catasterism) and so join the gods in the heavens above (apotheosis) in the form of the bright comet visible in the sky over Rome for several days in late July 44 BC. Born, therefore, under the divine ascendancy of the Caesars, I’ll bet he would have milked all the associations of that by the time he was writing under the emperor Augustus! Wonder if there are any such signs of it in his works… 🤔


  3. 👍More of the fun stuff and less of news sounds good!
    I’m currently stuck in Saudi Arabia. Came out for a 6 week job, and what a time to be ‘stuck’ here! Airports are closed until further notice, supermarkets are fast running out of products and I don’t speak Arabic 😄… I guess now is a good time to learn.
    Stay safe.


      1. Thanks.. What can we do when forced into a strange situation that’s out of our control… read and watch netflix in my case 🙂 Not many people in this small desert town… but they have great wifi signal.. very handy.

        Liked by 1 person

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