Weekend Reading: Fun and Rainbows

There are a lot of classicists out there who are writing about plagues and viruses and lessons that we can learn from History (see links below).

I won’t be doing that.

That’s partly because I don’t feel qualified to set myself up as a commentator on the relationship between the ancient and modern worlds. I’m not sure whether anybody is – but I know I’m not. It’s also partly because we’re in a situation that’s constantly changing, and it’s difficult to anticipate how it will develop.

But mainly it’s because the whole thing is a bit miserable.

Yes, we are all living through difficult times – but many of us are finding ways to have fun. So this week’s post is all about the fun.




I’ve been enjoying talking to people for my Comfort Classics series of interviews. It’s given me a great excuse to get back in touch with former students, as well as to get to know people better whom I’ve only ‘met’ from a distance. So far this week I’ve talked to OU graduate Colin about his tattoos, Ovid commentator Crom about nequitia, Sarah from Hellene Travel about the comfort of Aeschylus, historical fiction writer LJ about Suetonius and scandal – and of course the inspirational Mary Beard about the Odyssey (that was very exciting, since she contacted me just after I’d been watching her in a documentary about Titian!). It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve got plenty more interviews lined up, so do keep checking in. I’m going to take the weekend off, but will be back on Monday. And if you’d like to join in, do contact me!

I’ve also been having fun with books (no change there, then…). Earlier in the week I persuaded my son (who hates Craft with a fiery passion) to help me make a Book Rainbow for our window:




It was fun, and it took about 10 minutes (about the length of my son’s attention span!) – and we were proud of it, so we put the photo up on Twitter. Then it became a whole lot more fun, as people all round the world started joining in with their Classics rainbows. My son was very impressed – we spent two days reading the replies and tracking the hundreds of ‘likes’! Here are a couple of contributions from other people…


Steve Havelin has managed to out-rainbow me with this shelf…


Rainbow Klara
Klara Hegedus managed a rather niche rainbow with Schliemann books.


Check out the thread on Twitter for more.

There’s also been a lot going on which I’ve wanted to dive into, but haven’t had the time. Gina is continuing to run a Monday ‘Quarantine Classics’ reading group, which is open to anyone, and an online coffee morning for OU students (details here). The Center for Hellenic Studies is doing live weekly readings of Euripides (recorded here). Darius Arya is doing lectures for kids, live from Rome (recorded here). There are also lots of virtual events; for instance, Helen Morales is talking to Mary Beard next week about her new book on myth. There are more online Classics events than I could possibly keep up with, with more being added every day.

There’s also plenty of classical silliness on social media. Lockdown houses, for instance: which one would you choose to be stuck in?


I’m going for House 8. I have reasons.


Still pondering this one. Considering 3 (would like to have a chat with Lavinia), but House 5 would be lively!


…and this natural extension of the question, from @DocCrom…





And finally… I had a good laugh at this attempt to produce a Latin motto…





Happy Easter, everybody!



This week’s links from around the Classical Internet



Vindolanda and coronavirus – Chronicle Live 

Mary Beard on British Museum objects – The Guardian 

Wildlife in the Colosseum – The Times 

British Museum ostrich eggs – The Guardian 





Comment and opinion

Finishing a PhD in a pandemic – Eidolon

How would Thucydides have recorded the pandemic? – Society for Classical Studies 

A Covid-19 world – Michael Scott 

Thucydides is a virus – Eidolon

More on Thucydides – Sphinx

Aristotle’s coronavirus – The Philological Crocodile 

From old to new comedy – Medium 

Fun in Ancient Egypt – Musings of Clio 

Harry Potter and the Sphinx – Fantastiche Antike

Ovid and good sex – Bellaria 

Gladiator: behind the scenes – The Things 

Brain surgery in ancient Greece – Phys.org

Mary Beard’s top five objects – The British Museum





Podcasts, video and other media

Ovid and scansion – The Latin Programme 

Virgil and scansion – Benjamin Eldon Stevens

Thucydides on the WHO – Neville Morley 





Comfort Classics interviews so far

Comfort Classics: Steve Havelin

Comfort Classics: Lilah Grace Canevaro

Comfort Classics: Jack Lambert

Comfort Classics: Joanna Paul

Comfort Classics: Gina May

Comfort Classics: Klara Hegedus

Comfort Classics: Christine Plastow

Comfort Classics: Mary Beard

Comfort Classics: Rob Cromarty

Comfort Classics: Colin Gough

Comfort Classics: Sarah Thomason

12 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Fun and Rainbows

  1. House 8?……one would be hectoring you, another plying you with pomegranates, the other having man trouble all the time, another lording it and the remaining one balancing drinking cups on an embarrassing part of his anatomy!


  2. House 7 for me…with Dionysus there I’d be too drunk to notice Ajax complaining about losing that ballot, Theseus trying to find his way out, Antony having women trouble and Pegasus up the ceiling!


  3. House 8 for Augustus (just to see how much he matches my – by now un-imaginable – Brian Blessed/Boris Johnson hybrid imaginings) and House 3 for Lavinia (to find out what she has to say – since Virgil robs her of a voice in the Aeneid – about the whole ‘Aeneas-v.-Turnus-and-having-to-marry-the-man-who’s-just-butchered-my-boyfriend’ thing. And thanks for the whole rainbow idea (and for featuring my effort). Brilliant idea. Thoroughly enjoyed that 👍 🌈 😄


  4. House 4 as I can ask the Sybil how long the lockdown’s going to last (no use asking Cassandra in house 5!), house 6 must be the most tragic and house 3 the most obscure!


  5. Unfortunately I have to consider writing about plague and pestilence- the OU weird assignment timings has reared it’s head again! Last year I had to have an assignment on Caesar and his assassination handed in the day before the Ides of March. This year I have one for A340 due in at the end of the month on the 3rd century crisis- which includes plague and pestilence! Maybe I can work in something on classical reception and how researching/writing at the time of worldwide pestilence has an effect on my writing about whether there was a third century crisis!


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