The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.
Today’s interview is with Ian Spoor
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
Now that’s a really hard question – I have so many favourites I return to – Pliny’s Natural History or Gellius’ Attic Nights. I am currently reading Thucydides… but it really has to be Ovid’s Metamorphoses introduced to me by a certain Dr CB Knowles [loud cheer from the Editor!] during my studies with the Open University.
When did you first come across the Metamorphoses?
Actually a long time ago when I was self-learning Latin and Peter Jones’ Reading Ovid was in a second hand bookshop for about a fiver.
Can you tell me a bit about the text and its context?
Ovid lived during a time of political upheaval through to Augustus’ reign. This 15 book poem is his major work, popular even in the middle ages and beyond. An inspiration to people through the centuries – it is something… I cannot really put a finger on it. I read DE Hill’s translation more than anyone else’s. His succinct commentary (I always like to have a commentary to hand) gives me the opportunity to appreciate how vast Ovid’s knowledge was. I am always interested in seeing where authors like Ovid get their sources from, where they invent and reinvent stories… and why.
What is it about this book that appeals to you most?
Ovid to me was a man who composed in various genres – and it seems everything he turned his hand to he was brilliant at. A sort of ancient Mozart! The Metamorphoses moves from origin myth to semi-myth to his present times – and its appeal lies in being able to dip in to any of those stories and read and re-read them. They make me think about Roman attitudes, society, thinking etc. … there really is something for every mood that you may be in at the time!
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
To be honest, this is my hobby – but sometimes I read European detective novels for fun.
“I work in recruitment to put food on the table – but I study the Classics as well as help some students in their Greek grammar…. and I hope to finish off that MA in Classical Studies with the OU!”
Catch up with all the Comfort Classics interviews here.