Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What have the Romans done for us?

A couple links from the Classics-L list today. Firstly, a lovely article by Mary Beard from the Guardian, Tacitus was no elitist. The comments are interesting too--though it turns into a grammar quibble at one point. As I recall, there have been actual studies showing that Latin helps on the SAT and other standardized tests more than any other language, though--not that other languages aren't helpful.

And on MSNBC, there's No Place Like Rome, discussing the Aeneid and HBO's Rome (spoiler free, except for one quotation that really won't ruin anything for you). It's interesting, but I find this part offensive:

"As you read about their tear-stained confrontation, it's hard not to smile—this might be the first modern love story. Dido gets mad because Aeneas has commitment issues. Aeneas, with one foot out the door, sounds like the original heel. Love? Marriage? No way. Look, babe, I've got an empire to found."

First modern love story? That summary alone sounds brain-suckingly familiar. Why do people always ignore the Greeks? Did they suddenly just go *poof* and not exist?*

This was pretty funny too: "If you were to watch the series and read the Aeneid at the same time, you'd get whiplash going back and forth between ever-cynical "Rome" and the Aeneid's unironic endorsement of duty, honor, country."

I know there are people who would argue with that last bit.

*Not that I think the Greeks were the first either, but for a culture people are supposedly familiar with, they certainly do get shafted a lot.


Anonymous Atheneion said...

Yes, Glaukopidos,
I totally agree with you. Unfortunately I deem these misconceptions and misrepresentations are to be considered as side effects of the easy/light divulgation approach that often characterises such TV productions as well as some easy/light literature. Nevertheless this phenomenon is - to a certain extent, though - probably still to be appreciated since it stimulates interest and hopefully spreads love for Greece, Rome and the Ancient world in general to a wider audience.
How then these people will satisfy their woken scientific curiosity about our past, well this is still to be understood as they may probably end up buying some trifle semi-historical novel...
All the best

2:29 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

I agree. If people are interested, it's a start. And hopefully, they'll get beyond the historical novels!

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

(I just found your blog-- as a current undergrad doing classics, and a new blogger myself, I look forward to continuing to read your posts!)

I'm always surprised the ancient Greek novels don't get more attention as "early love stories". Quite a few are brainless enough that they'd appeal to a large segment of the population-- I've been amused by Chariton's Callirhoe, which involves grave-robbing, shipwreck, sale into slavery, and an absurd number of pirates.

That said, the summary you quote is incredibly frustrating to read. You'd think that someone writing said summary might have noticed that Aeneas wasn't really the one making the decision to leave-- more that Mercury was booting him out of Carthage. Ah well.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Lovely! Good luck with the new blog!

I think Greek just gets shafted a lot because it's not as easily "accessible" as Latin. Or something. Pretty ridiculous, all things considered.

It may also be the fault of the Classicists, though. I mean, there aren't good translations of these things easily available for non-Classicists. Something to work on, perhaps.

7:55 AM  

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