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 Liz Webb
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
Although he’s perhaps not an author naturally associated with comfort, Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War always draws me back.
When did you first come across this text?
The first time I came across Thucydides was as an undergraduate and the connection between us wasn’t immediate. I found his Greek (very) complex and I was more of a Herodotus fan. After a break of 18 years, I returned to Classics to start an MA in Classical Studies and Thucydides was the first text in the foundation year. My heart sank but a bit of distance and the chance to look at The History of the Peloponnesian War from a historiographical point of view completely changed my mind. Now, I am in the middle of my PhD researching audience sensory experience in Thucydides. I would never have imagined that!
Can you tell me a bit about this source and its context?
Thucydides was a fifth century Athenian who fought in the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Exiled after a significant military failure during that conflict, he wrote about the war based partly on his own experience and eyewitness accounts. His work is incomplete and, despite its claims to thoroughness, leaves its audience with many questions.
What is it about Thucydides’ work that appeals to you most?
I enjoy the variety of ways in which Thucydides presents his history; there are action scenes, speeches, letters, thoughts about mythology and methodological passages. I love the way that you can consider Thucydides’ text from so many angles, depending on your own preferences. When I’m not working on the text for research, I also enjoy considering how Thucydides might have thought about the afterlife of his text: as one of my MA tutors once said, ‘We might be speculating but that’s part of the fun.’ Speaking of fun, I was lucky enough to see Neville Morley’s all-singing, all-dancing production ‘Do What You Must’, an adaptation of the Melian Dialogue, in London in February of this year. It was so energetic and thought provoking- and I still find myself humming some of the songs! Thucydides really has something for everyone.
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
I love time with my family which includes a small menagerie so that keeps me busy. I enjoy Pilates for relaxation and I spend plenty of time watching West Wing reruns, MCU films and currently The Mandalorian- ‘This is the way.’
Liz is a PhD researcher in the Classical Studies department at the Open University. You can find her on Twitter @WebbEA02. Here is a short video about her research if you want to find out more.
Catch up with all the Comfort Classics interviews here.