Weekend Reading: Poems and Projects

It’s been a bit of a crazy week. I’m up to the ears in marking, and I’ve also been working on a few other projects – so sleep has been in short supply!

One project which I was grateful to be invited to join was the re-launch of the CUCD Education blog, which aims to share good practice in Classics teaching, with a particular focus now on the changes that we’ve all been coping with over the last year or so. I was asked to write a piece on working with neurodiverse groups of students online. I have to admit that I was delighted to be able to put down some of the (very) many thoughts that I’ve had about this over the years – and grateful to all my brilliant students who’ve been giving me ideas! I’ll be keeping an eye on the blog over the next few months, to pick up further tips.

I was also asked by the Actors of Dionysus to join in their #DailyDose series, which has featured some fabulous actors and academics (Stephen Fry, Edith Hall, Armand D’Angour, David Stuttard and so many others) over the last few months. This week’s theme is ‘Contemplation, reflection and self-care’ – so there was a natural crossover with my Comfort Classics series. It took me quite a long time (which I should probably have spent marking!) to settle on a poem  – but it was very enjoyable to spend time rummaging through all the Latin poems that seemed to me to promote ‘reflection and self-care’, and I felt much better afterwards! Finally I settled on a Horace poem dedicated to a wine jar, which always makes me laugh – partly because it reminds me of this song:

Then of course I had to find a suitable translation. I could have written one myself: but writing lyrical or catchy translations of poetry is really not one of my strengths! All of the ones I found on the internet seemed rather clunky (I can do ‘clunky’ all by myself!): and I was dismayed to find that, while I have dozens of Horace books in the house, it turns out that not a single one of them contains a translation of this particular poem!

After lots of frustrated leafing through books and irritated googling, I stumbled across an unpublished translation by Seamus Heaney, in a fascinating book about his links to Classics that was published last year.

It’s not, in my view, an entirely brilliant translation. Part of the humour of this poem is that the wine jar is being addressed almost as a god – given a list of epithets and an origin story, and repeatedly called upon to come down to the poet. Heaney doesn’t really acknowledge this element, which I think is a shame. In other respects, though, I like it a lot: at least it’s readable, which most translations of this poem really aren’t!

So I recorded myself reading it, and it was put up on Twitter yesterday: and within a few hours it had over 1,000 views! I think that’s proof that Heaney was doing something right.

Because there’s been so much going on, my links this week are a bit thin and I’m bound to have missed some interesting stuff: but as always, do consult the Rogue Classicist’s Thelxinoe daily posts for a much more comprehensive run-down of what’s happening in the online world of Classics! Over the next week I may try to put together a Christmas Guide focusing on books (if time allows, that is) – so do get in touch if you have suggestions for books that would make great Christmas presents for classicists. Last week’s Christmas Gift Guide proved to be pretty popular, and Eidolon has since brought out their own gift list (featuring my own coasters – fame at last!).

Comfort Classics has been rather quiet lately, too – perhaps because people have other things on their minds, or perhaps because the general mood is lightening just a bit. Whatever the case, I don’t have as many interviews coming in. I’ll continue posting them when they do, but it won’t be such a regular thing.

Oh – finally I should remind you that we’re in the last few days of November – so if you’d like to buy anything from my shop and see the money donated to the lovely people at Sportula Europe, now is the time! There also happens to be a big sale on this weekend (with code DEALS2020) – mugs and notebooks at 40% off… (just casually mentioning…!)

This week from around the Classical Internet


Goddess statue in central Turkey – AA

Deity figures from Kibyra – Daily Sabah

Roman artefacts found in a field – Gazette & Herald

Hadrian’s Wall at Walltown Crags – Current Archaeology

Lego Colosseum released – LiveScience

CA November Newsletter – The Classical Association

Pompeii News

(A separate section for this, because my MA students have just been looking at how ancient evidence is presented in the media, and this is a great example of that! So here are some versions of the story, and some really useful commentary on how it’s been presented.)

Master and slave in Pompeii – The Guardian

Master and slave – BBC Science Focus

Rich man and slave frozen in time – The Sun

The stories we tell – Pompeian Connections

Dealing with human remains – Pompeian Connections


(including Comfort Classics, a growing series of Roman Garden interviews from Tony at Classical Fix, and a new series on Ancient Magic!)

Comfort Classics: Julie Levy

Comfort Classics: Anne Chafer

Roman Gardens with Jane Draycott

Roman Gardens with Jessica Venner

Roman Gardens with Patty Baker

Quaestiones in magica with Stuart McKie

Comment and opinion

The ancient coins of Phanes – CoinWeek

The Odyssey in heavy metal music – Heavy Metal Classicist

Scanning a child mummy – LiveScience

The Lost Tomb – The History Girls

Resistrata! – Eidolon

From Classical Studies Memes For Hellenistic Teens

Podcasts, video and other media

Pompeii and Vesuvius, with Daisy Dunn – The Ancients

Life in Ancient Rome, with LJ Trafford – Ancient History Hound

Herodotus and Africa, with Rebecca Futo Kennedy – Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Greek music, with Armand D’Angour – Classics for All

A People’s History of Classics, with Edith Hall and Henry Stead – APGRD

Thanks to Stephen Jenkin for this!

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