THE CLASSICS NOW
What is the evidence about the current situation of the Classics and what are the opportunities for the field right now? This is a revision of an article published in Classical World in Spring 2016.
THE THINKING GREEK PROJECT:
I've been trying to think about thinking --specifically how ordinary Greeks, of the classical period thought. How they thought, not what they thought; not what the high powered philosophers and other intellectuals thought, but what patterns they shred with ordinary people. Below are some probes at these issues. Suggestions are much appreciated!
Witchcraft in Fourth Century Athens?
The Case of Theoris
Theoris, an immigrant from Lemnos into Attica, in the fourth century BCE, was indicted by Demosthenes, tried, convicted, and put to death, along with her whole family. Can this be best understood by comparing it to a witchcraft trial?
" ... a guiding principle. It works ...because it keeps the focus on what is distinctive in our fields, and hence on what Classics’ distinctive contribution to can be. "
" Some friends who read my essay SKIN noted that while it had a lot to say about body piercing and cutting, it said almost nothing about skin color. Is it possible, one of them wondered, that we picked up from the Greeks our practice of using skin pigment as a sign of racial inferiority? Can we blame the Greeks for this?
SKIN -- A Probe into Greek Ways of Thinking
"... Among the ancient Greeks ... skin was used to mark important contrasts, Greek v. non-Greek, male vs female, animal vs. human, inner vs outer. ... the Greeks observed strict restraints on any form of bodily penetration or cutting. ..."
A brash young man competes nude in the most prestigious Hellenic contest, thumbs his nose at old restraints, and sets in motion changes that reach deep into Greek culture. Nudity becomes standard practice in Greek athletics, and is found in religious rituals, the visual arts and other aspects of life as well. It becomes a boundary marker between male and female, boy and man, Greek and non-Greek. It seems strange to us – an instance of cultural “warp”. How can we understand the ways the Greeks thought about it?
Many scholars believe that the disaster suffered by the Athenian army in Sicily in 413 BCE was caused by the superstition of the Athenian troops and of one of their their commanders, Nicias, reinforced by their interpretation of an eclipse by Athenian seers (manteis). A clos reading of our primary source, Thucydides 7.50.4 yields quite a different picture of what happened, and brings to light a moment when th Athenian army functioned as if it were the city’s deliberative assembly. In this the manteis play a significant but limited role. The delay that resulted from the eclipse did not at the time seem a strategic blunder or acct of blind superstition.
You spoke of “virtuous Athens,” and I said, such phrasing “gives me the willies.” You asked why, and I found that I could only answer by looking in the rear view mirror at how my generation studied classical Athens. ... CLICK ABOVE TO READ ON
ON LIVING WITHOUT A "FACTUAL MIND-SET' -- The Perspective of Thucydides 1.20 -24.
" ... But what about the Greeks? Did they have a “factual mind-set”? I realized to my embarrassment that in thinking about how the Greeks had thought I had paid little attention to their views about "facts." There was a reason for that: ancient Greeks, at least for some centuries, seemed not to talk about facts. So when I tried my usual thought-experiment of translating contemporary terms into ancient Greek I bloodied my nose against a stone wall. .... READ MORE BY CLICKING AT THE TOP
Methodologically hazardous this THINKING GREEK stuff? Sure but worth the risk.!
Phrasikleia holding a pomganate. National Museum, Athens
DO WE REALLY UNDERSTAND GREEK RELIGION?
In fact, Is There Such a Thing as “Greek Religion”?
"Was there such a thing as ancient Geek religion? Surely there was; the great scholar Walter Burkert wrote a book with that title; ... but something is missing among the Greeks – a word for “religion.” How did they get along without this convenient bushel basket into which we dump so much? ..." CLICK ABOVE TO READ MORE