Posts Tagged ‘classical reception’

How does our knowledge of classical antiquity relate to the present and its problems? How do we as classicists – to address at least a subset of my readers – engage with the world through our knowledge of the classical past, or is our chosen field of activity precisely a means of not engaging with the world?  (more…)

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Courtesy of my colleague Richard Flower, another Thucydides reference in an unexpected context: the autobiography of Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, Who on Earth is Tom Baker?, looking back to his childhood activity as a bookie’s runner.

Because the process of taking bets, or making a book, was illegal, the system of identifying betting slips was important. How to identify the winner of a bet? The punter couldn’t put his real name on the slip for fear that the police might raid the premises, find the slips and fine the gambler. This risk was avoided by a system of noms de plumes… One disgraced classicist used Thucydides which caused pronunciation problems back at base. The accepted explanation was that Thucydides was Turkish for nancy boy.

How did he know that the classicist was “disgraced” – specific knowledge, or simply the assumption that no respectable one would sink to gambling? How touching…


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Full of future thoughts and thrills… Published in last week’s The New European.

Europe was invented, or at least first defined, by the ancient Greeks. In the sixth century BCE, geographers like Anaximander and Hecataeus imagined the world divided between Europe, Asia and Libya Africa; their successor Herodotus turned this division into a great historical drama with the confrontation between the Persian Empire, rulers of Asia, and the heroic little Greeks at Thermopylae, Marathon and Salamis. (more…)

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Will the people of the future still be reading classical literature and thinking about ancient exempla – and, if so, in what ways? This isn’t a topic that gets a great deal of attention in science fiction; I’m not thinking of the sorts of books that imagine a new Roman Empire with spaceships (see this list – the Trigan Empire lives!) or which deploy classical motifs as a key plot element (hello BSG) but rather those that try to imagine the world of the future in its own terms, but take the time to mention whether anyone still references Thucydides. (more…)

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2016, as I reflected on at least one occasion, was a year that seemed to represent a return to old-fashioned l’histoire événementielle, where world-changing developments occurred at the sort of pace with which we humans feel naturally comfortable (indeed, sometimes a bit faster than we might have preferred) rather than unfolding over decades or centuries. Both Brexit and the election of Trump represented, or appeared to represent, the sorts of dramatic turning-points that make for an exciting narrative, played out on a human timescale. But in addition – and this is something that I noted in passing, but could have made more of – it seems to represent, or can be claimed as, a series of events driven by humans and human-level factors, rather than vast, mysterious and impersonal forces and processes. Indeed, the force of the ‘Take Back Control’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ slogans is precisely that of a revolt against those who surrendered to abstract ideas like globalisation and the march of automation, in the false belief that they are more powerful than any human agency; we are presented with a reclaiming and repurposing of the progressive idea that something else besides eternal capitalism is still possible.

It struck me this morning that there may be a connection here to the sudden popularity of historical analogies, especially classical analogies, for contemporary political developments. (more…)

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It’s podcast time! Welcome to another occasional episode of Radio Abahachi, in which I attempt to find some music inspired by Thucydides that I can actually bear to listen to!


[Update 15:35 21/12/16: just realised that there’s a minute or so of dead air towards the end; have hastily re-edited, and new version has been uploaded, but many apologies to anyone whose listening pleasure was spoiled by this.]

[As opposed to some of the actual ‘music’.]

[For further discussion of Bob Dylan’s reading (sic?) of Thucydides, see John Byron Kuhner’s ‘Tangled Up In Thucydides’ from Eidolon last year; more generally on T’s reception in modern culture, my chapter ‘The idea of Thucydides in the Western tradition’ in Lee & Morley, eds., A Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides.]

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For all the ghastliness everywhere else, it’s felt like a good year for blogging. Partly this is because I’ve managed to keep up with this blog rather better than in previous years, and have written some things that I’m really rather proud of; increasingly, I’ve come to understand posts (and articles for online publications, of which I’ve also published a few this year) as valid outputs in their own right, rather than as either advertising for or shorter versions of ‘proper’ academic publications, or as a mere distraction from ‘proper’ research (though there have been times this year when blog posts are the only things I’ve felt capable of writing). Even more, however, it’s been the insights and ideas of other people, which I’d never have found or bothered to read without the internet (and, to give credit where it’s due, without the much-maligned Twitter), that have been most informative and inspiring – and this year I’ve remembered, most of the time, to keep a note of the posts that made the biggest impression and are certainly well worth reading if you haven’t yet seen them. (more…)

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