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 Marika Strano
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
There are many classical sources that I love to read when I need to feel better, but in this case it’s not difficult for me to choose the Apokolokyntosis (known also as Divi Claudii Apotheosis per satiram or Ludus de morte Claudii), attributed to Seneca.
When did you first come across this text?
I read Seneca’s Apokolokyntosis for the first time when I was in High School, between 2010 and 2011. I had already read the author’s other works, so my teacher advised me to read (and also try to translate, and in High School I was terrified of translation) Apokolokyntosis, since I particularly like any source related to Roman Emperors.
Can you tell me a bit about this source and its context?
The success of this kind of work, especially since it is political satire, depends on the speed with which it is written and its spread. In the case of Apokolokyntosis, this seems to have happened a few weeks after the death of Claudius. However, it is also possible that Seneca’s work was released only a few months after Britannicus’ death, which occurred on February 13, AD 55.
The comic ascent to heaven of the newly dead Emperor Claudius, or rather his failed attempt to ascend to heaven which ends, instead, with a descent into Hades in Apokolokyntosis is set on October 13, AD 54, the day of Emperor Claudius’ death.
The work is attributed to Seneca, although the attribution to this author is uncertain. It is attributed to Seneca from the manuscripts and from a testimony (also very dubious) of Cassius Dio, but it is handed down to us independently from all other works by Seneca, who had been sent into exile by Claudius (spent in Corsica from 41 to 49). Seneca was officially accused of adultery, but the exile was probably due to Claudius’ desire to “eliminate” a member of the senatorial opposition who hindered the Emperor’s absolutism.
What is it about this source that appeals to you most?
I do like the relevance of the Apokolokyntosis! I deal every day with modern literature and philology, but I love Latin and Greek classics because without their influence we would not be the same. Every time I read and study one of them I am struck by how many things the ancient world has to teach us, even if very often we don’t know how to learn from it.
I often wonder what Seneca would have written or who would have been the protagonists of a contemporary Apokolokyntosis… well, I think the philosopher would have had so much to write if he had seen our political news!
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
I really love spending my free time taking long walks by the sea and, when the weather is good (in Sicily always!), I like to bring my notebook with me, sit on the sand and write fanfiction. I have been writing on EFP and on Wattpad since I was 14.
I also love walking with my dog, Enea. He is the first dog I’ve taken care of, so we share almost every moment of the day. When I study he is always close to me, and in the afternoon we go to the park because he has to meet his friends!
I also like to watch old TV series and movies with my grandmother and eat… I love eating, even if I can’t cook!
Marika Strano graduated in Modern Literature and Philology from the University for Foreigners of Perugia.
In the last year her research has focused mainly on the reception of Greek myth in Italian, English and Irish Studies and on comparative literature studies of Italian and Irish poets and writers.
Catch up with all the Comfort Classics interviews here.