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 Emily Hauser
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
Although it’s the stories and characters of Homer’s world that I love for a good story, it’s Seneca’s Letters I turn to when I want to feel better about the world. His Stoic philosophy is so relatable, and there are so many passages that really speak to us now.
When did you first come across Seneca?
It was probably during my undergraduate degree at Cambridge, though the first time I read his letters in any detail was during the qualifying exams for my PhD.
Can you tell me a bit about the Letters and their context?
The Letters are a collection of 124 letters written by Seneca the Younger, a philosopher and writer who was also tutor to the emperor Nero and was later forced by Nero to commit suicide. His letters are one of the primary sources for ancient Stoicism and provide an insight into a huge range of themes, from the Stoic virtues to dealing with old age.
What is it about this source that appeals to you most?
I love its relatability. One of the huge draws of Classics for me has always been the way that ancient texts can speak to us and allow us to cross thousands of years by reminding us of a common interest or concern, something we’ve always shared. It’s easy now to feel that this is a strange time, unfamiliar, and so there’s something wonderfully comforting and familiar about going back to ancient texts that seem to speak about issues we all care about more than ever – dealing with loss and fear; living a happy life; looking after each other.
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
I love to do yoga and meditation; I also really enjoy doing art and reading novels. At the moment I’m on maternity leave with a 6-month-old and I’m also loving spending time with her to cheer myself up!
Emily Hauser is Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter. She is the author of a trilogy of critically acclaimed novels reworking the women of Greek myth – For the Most Beautiful, For the Winner, and For the Immortal — and has written articles on women poets in antiquity and their reception in contemporary women’s writing. Her current book, Authoress: Gendering Poets in Ancient Greece, looks at the gendering of authorship in Greek poetry and is forthcoming with Princeton University Press.
Catch up with all the Comfort Classics interviews here.