Student Abstracts 2013

These abstracts of student coursework were submitted by seniors from the class of 2013 for Senior Colloquium, March 2013.

1. The Cry of Winnie Mandela: A South African reimagining of Homer’s Penelope (Nnesochi Ajukwu)

This project explores Njabulo Ndebele’s novel The Cry of Winnie Mandela as a contemporary interpretation of the theme of the waiting wife in Homer’s Odyssey. Ndebele’s work examines the lives of five women in post-apartheid era South Africa, who are described as “the descendants of Penelope” because they also waited indefinitely for their absent husbands. In his work Ndebele provides insight into the mind of a “waiting woman” and ultimately calls into question the virtue of waiting indefinitely for a husband who may or may not return. Thus, this paper explores Ndebele’s interpretation of the Odyssey as a critique of the paradigm of marital fidelity embodied by Penelope.

2. The Allure of Mystery Cults (Sarah Banks)

This paper attempts to evaluate the reasons behind the change from state to private religion in the fifth century BCE. Specifically the essay will focus on cults that worshipped Dionysus. By focusing on Euripides Bacchae and using other primary sources such as poems from Xenophanes of Colophon it is possible to glean the social conditions of the fifth century and better understand the broader context of the change. In the end I think that it is clear that multiple factors contributed to the religious transformation ranging from natural human tendencies to public dissatisfaction. Considering the timing of social change in relation to the decline of the Greek Empire, it would be interesting to see how the two correlate beyond this paper.

3. A Reexamination of Agonistic Spells in Classical Antiquity (John Callander)

My paper considers the characteristics of agonistic spells in antiquity with the intention of better defining the category.  Using the spell recipes found in the Greek Magical Papyri as well as the actual spell lamellae found in John Gager’s Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World I review the differences and similarities between agonistic spells and find the definition lacking.  By reexamining the category through the lens of Christopher Faraone’s Love Magic I propose two subcategories, victory and failure spells which maintain past categorical denotations while providing a more accurate definition of the spells within.

 4. Politics of Culture in the Ancient Pontus (Alex Clapp)

This paper explores Hellenism in the ancient Black Sea. Generally speaking,mainland Greeks of the Classical period identified themselves in opposition to the cultures native to this periphery. But in the Hellenistic period an opportunistic GrecoPersian family attempted to weld the Sea’s various ethnicities into a single political unit. The Mithridatids’ “Black Sea Empire” raised an opposition to Roman expansion more enduring than that of any other kingdom in the Greek East. Their efforts laid the foundation for a sense of Pontic regionalism that was intermittently reactivated centuries, even millennia later.

5. Philip II of Macedon and The Third Sacred War (Alexandra Cole)

The purpose of this work is to understand Philip II’s motivations in entering the Third Sacred War. The Athenian perspective and three separate theories are provided. Philip’s intentions are first discussed as seen by the Athenian populous. Then, three theories fromPhilip’s perspective are given. These theories are: the theory of internal stability, the theory of regional hegemony and the theory of an accidental war of ideology. Support for the above-mentioned theories is provided through an analysis of Macedon’s known economic and social issues of the time, as well as ideology displayed on his coinage.

6. The Traveling Hero: Rapper Oddisee as a Contemporary Odysseus (Amelia Cornfield)

Rapper Amir Mohamed chose the stage name Oddisee to craft a persona based on the Homeric hero Odysseus. Releasing albums such as Traveling Man, Oddisee describes himself as a traveler who makes destinations accessible to listeners through observation-based music. Oddisee often recalls The Odyssey in his lyrics by mentioning the Adriatic and portrays himself both as a soldier suffering after the war and as a leader laying snares. He identifies with Odysseus as a fellow wanderer and as someone who becomes wiser through travel; however, he rejects several heroic objectives that are central in the Odyssey—status, wealth, and fame.

7. Hunters, Guards, Companions: The Role of Dogs in Antiquity (Kyle Desandes-Moyer)

The following work aims to answer the question of what role dogs had in antiquity for the Greek and Roman world.  The research aims to answer this question through archaeological evidence and ancient literary sources.  The main focus of this project is a zooarchaeological analysis of an assemblage of dogs that were found at a site in Tuscany, Italy as part of the Roman Peasant Project, an ongoing archaeological project.  The study uses the research and literary evidence to understand how the dogs from the Roman peasant site fit into the larger Roman world.

8. The Stoic Thesis of Fate in Cicero's De Fato (Jesse Dubois)

Cicero (106-43 BCE) wrote De Fato in 44 BCE. The work relates a philosophical dialogue between Cicero himself and his friend Hirtius, concerning the idea of fate in different Hellenistic schools. Cicero himself represents the “New Academy”, a school that descended from Platonic doctrine, and spends the majority of the dialogue criticizing the Stoic thesis of fate, as articulated by the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus (279-206 BCE). This paper will present and evaluate one of Chrysippus’s arguments for the doctrine that “all things come about through fate”: The Argument from Bivalence. (Cic. Fat. 20-21) (Written for Professor Meyer's course PHIL-436: Hellenistic Philosophy)

9. Reconciling Physical Mortality with Literary Immortality: The Lyric Poets Sappho and Horace on Old Age (Charlotte Edelson)
In this paper, I establish the significance of aging in ancient Greece and Rome, examining the similar treatments of old age within a single literary genre, lyric poetry. Through close readings of Sappho’s Fragment 58 and Horace’s Odes II.11, I assert that both poets advocate the motif of living for today (carpe diem), despite their temporal, geographic and contextual differences. Further, I argue that in resigning themselves to the negative effects - physical and mental - of old age, Horace and Sappho employ lyric poetry as a means of conveying their distress, while simultaneously immortalizing their legacy.
10. Messalina: The Most Negative Tacitean exemplum and the Bringer of Chaos (Victoria Fiengo)

The Tacitean Messalina is a literary construct and Tacitus uses this creation in the discourse of empire to exemplify a total lack of control. Messalina is set apart from other Tacitean Imperial adulteresses because power is not her motivation.  Messalina is already Empress and Augusta (if only in principle if not in title). Instead, Messalina’s demise is presented as the inevitable consequence of her uncontrollable sexual desire and her insatiable greed. In this way, she is the most negative Tacitean exemplum. Her vices and lack of chastity lead to the downfall of her lineage. Her uncontrollable lust threatens her responsibility as incumbent Empress, which is to continue dynasty. This reputation lives on in the writings of people such as Suetonius, Juvenal, and the pseudo-Senecan author who wrote the Octavia.

11. The Polychromatic Tradition in Roman Sculpture: Origins, Methods and Modern Recreations (Alexandra Gradwohl)
This paper examines both the prevalence and the importance of polychromy in Roman sculpture. After exploring the origins of the polychromatic sculptural tradition, different methods of including color are addressed, including paints, stones, metals, glasses and other natural materials. A number of modern efforts to recover evidence of and recreate classical polychromy are also discussed, as well as what these projects may mean for modern interpretations of Roman art. Certain pieces are also addressed as case studies, examining how color may have altered how Roman audiences understood and interpreted their statuary.
12. Suppliants and POWs: Protection and Obligation in War (Sarah Gutman)

My paper examines the similar experiences of the Homeric heroes of the Iliad and the American soldiers in the film Saving Private Ryan. It focuses on the treatment of suppliants on the battlefield in the Iliad and compares this with the treatment of Prisoners of War in Saving Private Ryan. Although separated by thousands of years, the treatment of suppliants and POWs conveys the same sense of obligation and protection. This paper examines the factors that lead to the violations of these protections under the stresses of combat and their broader implications for the ethical code of conduct in war.

13. Masculine and Feminine Dualities in Euripides' Medea (Molly Hutt)

This is just one chapter of a larger work entitled “ WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY: Infanticide and Duality in Euripides’ Medea as an Expression of Athenian Anxieties in 431 BC.” It focuses specifically on the masculine/feminine duality in Medea’s character and how it affects her status as “Other” in fifth century Athens. Parts of this chapter include sections on the imagery of sex and violence, women and reputation, and finally the distinctive roles of men and women in marriage. In each of these, it shows how Medea confounds boundaries between the masculine and feminine, expressing the confusion of a society destined for war.

14. The Destruction of Pagan Temples and the Building of their Christian Counterparts: Comparing the Literary and Archaeological Evidence (Selbie Jason)

This paper was written my sophomore year for the course “Archaeology of Greco-Roman Religion,” which introduced me to my academic interest in the practices and beliefs of ancient religions. By comparing the archaeological evidence from the pagan temples in the city of Alexandria and the island of Philae with the literary accounts of Ammianus Marcellinus, Eunapius, and Rufinus, this paper demonstrates that the transition to Christianity was more gradual and passive than the literary sources portray. While the destruction and desecration of the Serapeum in Alexandria (destroyed in 392 AD) and the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae (desecrated between 535 and 537 AD) suggest a sudden and violent dissatisfaction with paganism, the pairing of the archaeological evidence from these sites with ancient textual accounts demonstrate that this religious shift was gradual and dependent on the specific social climate of each city.

15. The Rage of Achilles and the Search for a Father Figure: The Effect of Peleus, the Absentee Father (Alicia Lehmer)

War is not only political, but deeply personal.  In Homer's Iliad, we tend to see Achilles as a preeminent soldier, but we must also understand that he is still a youth, and that his actions reveal a desire for the guidance and example of his father.  Peleus is an absentee father in the Iliad, and thus we see Achilles search for father figures among his fellow soldiers, with mixed results but never with complete satisfaction. I argue that Achilles does indeed find a father figure, to his surprise among the enemy Trojans in the form of Priam.

16. The Justinianic Plague and the Historiography of Epidemics (Marguerite Leone)

In the following excerpt from my senior thesis, I discuss the significance of three historical accounts of the Justinianic Plague – that of Procopius, Evagrius Scholasticus, and John of Ephesus – as part of a “plague historiography” tradition. Juxtaposing these three accounts, I explore several important similarities in structure that emerge as unique to the plague excursus, and argue for their central importance to the historian’s effective reconstruction of a plague event.Similarly, I draw out the central differences in etiology - that is, the explanation of the calamity’s origins and causes - presented by our authors, and argue that the theological perspectives of each author epitomize the rapid historiographic transition in the sixth century C.E. from the classicizing plague model of antiquity to the punitive theology model of Late Antique ecclesiastical history.

17. The Outsider as Insider: Aristophanes' Understanding of the Classical Athenian Slave (James Levy)

 This chapter is a portion of a larger thesis, which deals with the ethnicity of and position of the slave in Classical Athens. In this section, I examine the comedies of Aristophanes. Granted that the thesis argues that Athenian slaves transcend their ethnic identity and become somewhat incorporated into Athenian society, this chapter utilizes the slaves of the comedies to prove that Aristophanes separates the slave from the “barbarian” by creating intelligent and capable slaves juxtaposed with weak and immoral foreigners. By synthesizing the Aristophanic view and the traditional scholarly interpretation of slavery, the thesis offers a unique and complex understanding of Classical Athenian slavery.

18. Livia in Conversation: An Analysis of Exemplarity in Imperial Rome and the Societal Implications of Livia’s Role (Breanne Medford)

Livia, as the wife of Augustus, set precedents for women in leadership roles in the early Roman Empire. Contrary to many Roman women before her, she played a pivotal part in shaping the direction women could and would go throughout the establishment of the empire. The idea of the exemplarity is examined through the scope of Livia and three specific conversations. The depiction of Livia in conversation in Dio’s Historia Romana, Seneca’s De Consolatione ad Marciam and finally in Tacitus’s Annals, show the first Empress as a woman of both negative and positive exemplum.

19. Maguš, Mágos, or Magician: Considering Herodotus as a Source for the Magoi in Achaemenid Religion (Jamie O’Connell)

The following is a section of a larger project submitted for honors in Classical Studies. The overall project explores the reliability of Herodotus as a source on Achaemenid Persian religion, with a focus on his depiction of the magoi. The thesis examines in turn excerpts from Herodotus, sources from the Near East that reference magoi (which is what has been submitted here), and excerpts from texts of several Greek authors contemporaneous with Herodotus that reference magoi ormageia. Below, we examine each Near Eastern reference first on its own and then in comparison with Herodotus in order to determine how much of how he depictsmagoi in The Histories can be corroborated.

20. Ambiguity in Bucolic Poetry and Satire: The Treatment of Country and City in the Eclogues and Sermones (Kenny Puk)

In this reading of Vergil’s Eclogues and Horace’s Sermones with special attention to Ecloga 1 and Sermo ii.6, I argue that the treatment of country and city expands both works beyond the traditional bounds of their respective genres to create more robust, less insular works that incorporate the circumstances under which each were written. I show that the Sermones should be read with a “two-voiced” narrator casts ambiguity which not only enriches the satire’s perspective on the country-city spectrum, on which the genre is traditionally skewed toward the city, but also creates humor. I also show that the representation of Arcadia in the Vergil’ s Eclogues is not conform to an ideal pastoral world but instead a world that incorporates the darknesses of the city and country in additional to its traditional pastoral setting.

21. Isis’ Prices: ‘Truthonomics’ and Moral Transformation in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (Elliot Rambach)

I chose this essay for our Senior Colloquium because it speaks across the disciplines that define study of the Classics—sources from history, philosophy, and literature inform its approach to the episodic journey of Apuleius’ narrator Lucius. At the conclusion of Book 11 Lucius has progressed from buffoon to ascetic, but readers are left to question the validity of his contentment. My essay explores how social and intellectual traditions affect the trajectory of Apuleius’ narrative, then negates that conversation almost entirely to examine the possibility thatMetamorphoses is an exercise in literary sleight-of-hand, and the joke’s on us.

22. ‘Not Art, but Truth’: A Brief History of Mummy Portrait Reception (Alethea Roe)

This excerpt “’Not Art, but Truth’: A Brief History of Mummy Portrait Reception” is taken from my senior thesis, fully entitled “Ancient Faces, Enduring Questions: The ‘Fayum’ Mummy Portraits and the Problem of Verisimilitude,” which explores the complex, socially mediated dialectic between physical bodies and portrait bodies in Roman Egypt. This exploration of the history of mummy portrait reception demonstrates the importance of an acute awareness—and a vigilant interrogation of—the ways mummy portraits have historically been appropriated and sentimentalized, if we hope to shed the biases of the past, and effectively critique those of the present.

23. The Ancient Egyptian Necessity for Mummification (Alicia Rosen)

Mummification is one of the most widely associated practices of ancient Egyptian culture; however, the reasoning behind preserving the human body is often left unexplained. Driving forces for the custom reside in the Egyptian religion and its intricate social connections. Texts describing the process of mummification, goods and art left with the deceased, and religious beliefs of the time aid in illustrating their significance in conserving the human body as a means of prospering in the constructed afterlife. Social hierarchy plays a key role in determining who would be mummified and to what extent, which irrevocably connects religious rite and social order.

24. Optimization of Myth for Medium (Anne Rosen)

Aeschylus’ Oresteia and Homer’s Odyssey represent two highly distinct versions of the myth of Orestes’ vengeance on his mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. The differences in plot detail and character development between the two renditions reflect each author’s optimization of the myth to best serve the needs and heighten the effects of his medium. To this end, in the Eumenides, in particular the Oresteia, Aeschylus includes all of the gory, treacherous background and details of the Agamemnon saga that complicate the story and preclude the identification of a hero or lesson, creating, for the purpose of tragedy, a larger-than-life drama within the confines of the palace at Mycenae. Homer instead takes a reductionist approach to the myth, including only selective plot details and minimal character development in order to create a straightforward, moralizing story that aligns with the didactic nature of the epic poem as a medium.

25. Playing with Our Expectations: The narrator’s influence on the audience’s experience in Homer’s Iliad (Laura Santander)

My paper discusses a narrative technique in Homer’s Iliad, which involves the narrator or the poet taking advantage of an audience’s expectations to create an engaging narrative. I focus on the Trojan side with a tendency towards Hector’s storyline specifically. The poet builds up expectations in the audience for the future, using foreshadowing, and also sets some expectations in conflict with each other. These conflicts engage the audience as we wait for the resolution, which does not always turn out to be as relieving as we expect. Because one of the opposing expectations is left unfulfilled, the poet elicits an emotional response from the audience, who is distressed and unsatisfied about the result.

26. Circles of the Zodiac: Magic, Astrology, and the Roman Circus (Chris Vandegrift)

Although the solar symbolism of chariot racing is attested to early in the Greco-Roman tradition, the literary record leaves it unclear as to whether the more elaborate astrological understandings of the Roman circus, like that of Cassiodorus’ Variae Epistiulae 3.51, have their provenance in the Imperial era or are wholly of Late Antique origin. Astrological references that feature in curse tablets related to chariot racing offer a means for evaluating how such understandings may have developed over time and across regions. From the defixiones evaluated in this paper, I show that relatively elaborate links between chariot racing and astrology were in place across the Mediterranean at least as early as the third century C.E. and demonstrate a methodology that might be able to refine that dating further still when applied to more evidence.

27. Reading Tacitean Irony in the Germania (Adena Wayne)

In this section of my senior thesis, I examine the ways in which Tacitus presents a critique of Roman society in his ethnographical work, the Germania. By closely reading selected passages of this work, I show how Tacitus’s discussion of the Germans acts as a veiled commentary on both the strengths and weaknesses of the Romans. Tacitus sets the Germans up as a foil to Roman culture, religion, and politics, thus demonstrating how Roman citizens should and should not behave. I have selected passages from the Germania that are particularly important to my thesis’s argument and contain themes that are echoed in his discussion of the Jews in his Histories.

28. Why Go Classical? An investigation of Philadelphia's former Ridgway Library (Michael Wisniewski)

The former Ridgway Library, now the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, was designed by local architect Addison Hutton and built from 1873-1878 at Broad and Christian Streets in South Philadelphia. It was constructed in the Greek Revival style near the end of the Neoclassical architecture movement in the city, which had already witnessed the erection of buildings such as the Second Bank of the United States and the Merchants' Exchange, both in Old City. The style was a popular one both locally and across the nation — despite its associated high costs of construction — for libraries and banks due to its association with the democratic ideals of the ancient Greek poleis and America as the world's new democracy. In this project, I evaluated the proportions of Ridgway with those of the Parthenon, using for comparison the drawings of Britons James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, who toured Athens in the mid-18th century. I took my own measurements of the columns and intercolumniations and concluded the structure was indeed modeled after the ancient Athenian temple.