Student Abstracts 2015

These abstracts of student coursework were submitted by seniors from the class of 2015 for Senior Colloquium, March 2015.

Note on major tracks: Classical Languages and Literature = lang; Classical Civilizations = civ; Mediterranean Archaeology = arch; Ancient History = anc

1. Fault Lines of the Oikos: The Relationship between Individual Desire and the Oikos in Euripides’ Medea (Laura Agosto) [lang]

The aim of this paper is to examine the strength of the oikos in 5th century Athens through Euripides’ Medea. Euripides develops a complex picture of the oikos, one that is riddled with flaws. Through examinations of the oikoi presented in Xenophon’s Oeconomicus and Lysias’ On the Murder of Eratosthenes, a framework of the ideal oikos is established, and the potential problems that face the oikos are explored. The comparison of the oikos of Medea with the oikoi of these two works reveals a tenuous relationship between individual desire and the stability of the oikos. Euripides uses the character of Medea to assert this fundamental fragility of the oikos and thereby the polis, contrary to what a contemporary audience would have liked to believe.

2. Socrates’ Silences (Donald Antenen) [lang]

Plato's Symposium contains two scenes that depict Socrates thinking silently (174d and 220c). The scenes are incongruous with the Socrates described in this and other dialogues. The first scene describes Socrates thinking reflexively on a porch. In the second scene, Socrates stands apart from the war camp at Potidaea 'seeking' something. Previous scholarship has lumped these scenes together and assumed that that they represent aspects of Socrates' λόγος about Eros. This paper argues that the two scenes represent distinct forms of Socratic thinking and do not represent Socrates' λόγος. Rather, the action of the scenes constitutes an argument that is in tension with the spoken λόγος.

3. Modes and Realities of Demotic Participation in the Ekklesia of Fourth-Century Athenian Democracy (Alexandra Ashcraft) [civ]

This paper is an exploration of the realities behind the various ways that the Athenian demos participated in and interacted with its government within the ekklesia, and what these realities might mean for our conceptualization of democracy in fourth century Athens.  Our characterization of the nature of Athenian democracy is not simply a question of what opportunities were made available to the demos, but more importantly, of the extent that citizens actually realized their potential for participation.  

4. The Big Picture: The Relationship between Text and Image in Greek Comic Vase Paintings (Katharine (KC) Boas) [civ]

This paper addresses the relationship between text and image. In order to investigate the interplay between literary and visual art works, I have drawn on current scholarship to develop a synthetic approach that I then apply to my own interpretation of a vase painting by Asteas, which displays a comic reinterpretation of a serious literary motif. The study of text-image relationships is rewarding because it enhances our understanding of the society in which each art work was created. When deciphering the relationship between text and image, I propose that we must reconsider how ‘text’ is routinely defined as ‘exclusively drama.’ Through my own interpretation of Asteas’ vase painting, I treat the combined influences of literary, iconographic, and cultural traditions in a more holistic manner than is typical of such studies.

5. The Emergence of Stoicism (Rayven Jones Bowser) [civ]

A close look at the values of Roman religion juxtaposed with Seneca ‘s writings on stoicism. The Ancient Roman religion revolved around a deep appreciation for a patriotic tradition and a high praise of ritual in addition to a desire to appease the gods. Seneca’s writings (Ad Helviam, De Providencia and De Clementia in particular) tackle ideas aligned with the stoic tradition. His words open up a window into the stoic tradition at the height of Nero’s rule, thus giving a glance into the cultural significance of stoics like Seneca during this time in Ancient Roman history. 

6. Roman Virtus and Greek Ἀνδρεία in Jewish Writing: Examining Cultural Integration Through Changes in Conceptions of Manly Virtue (Madeleine Brown) [lang]

This paper examines how and to what extent the Jews fit into the Greco-Roman world from the second century B.C.E. through the second century C.E. through the values of ἀνδρεία and virtus (ideals of manliness of Greece and Rome).  Greek and Roman ideals of male virtue involved some measure of public service.  The books of Daniel and Esther from the Septuagint, the Alexandrian Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, are of particular interest.   Each of these books presents a male role model whose character has been changed significantly as between the Hebrew text and its subsequent Greek translation(s) under Greek and Roman rule.  In the Greek, these role models (Daniel and Mordecai) have become increasingly involved in public life as they steadfastly maintain their Jewish faith.  This remarkable change in Daniel’s and Mordecai’s character depictions displays Greco-Roman influences on Jewish conceptions of manly virtue.

7. Pre-Scientific Medicine? An Analysis of Select Testimonies to Asclepius (Josh Bryer) [lang]

Asclepius appears as the god of medicine in the Greek imagination. Thus, suppliants visited temples, asclepeia, in order to seek healing of various diseases and ailments. In this relationship between god and man, what role does the physician play, if any? Is Asclepius anthropomorphized in his medical and surgical duties? Can his medicine be considered scientific medicine, in any context? This paper analyzes select inscriptions dedicated to Asclepius at asclepeia in an effort to reach conclusions regarding this divine nature of Greek medicine. 

8. Collateral Damage: Caracalla’s Constitutio Antoniniana (Sanibel Chai) [civ] 

This paper examines the legacy of Caracalla’s Constitutio Antoniniana primarily using close readings of Herodian and Cassius Dio. At the heart of the close readings is a discussion of the simplistic dichotomy many historians (both modern and ancient) fall prey to when examining the lives of controversial figures. Both Dio and Herodian are guilty of subscribing to what is termed the “good emperor/bad emperor” dichotomy. This dichotomy threatens the veracity of the representation of emperor Caracalla’s life and heavily suggests a financial motivation behind the edict that granted empire-wide citizenship. The paper attempts to unpack the biases of the ancient historians and, in doing so, shed light on how the effects of their lasting characterizations of Caracalla may have influenced how the Constitutio Antoniniana is portrayed by modern historians. Also discussed are the possible personal motives that Cassius Dio and Herodian appear to have harbored, which guided the manner in which each portrayed Caracalla. There are so few references to the Constitutio Antoniniana that it largely remains a mystery, but this paper aims to illuminate the exaggerated misconceptions surrounding Caracalla which have greatly influenced interpretation of his edict.

9. Character and the Individual in Classical and American Government (Connor Clerkin) [lang]

In this essay I show the American founders were interested in and affected by issues of character as much as their ancient predecessors, whom they knew much about. Individuals were seen in both classical times and the time of the Founding Fathers as the primary source of change. For both time periods, the success of an individual and his actions could be predicted and interpreted best by his character. Ancient histories such as those by Nepos and Xenophon highlight this idea in ancient times. For the American aspect, the writings of Madison and other founders provide ample evidence.

10. Synagogues in the Diaspora (2nd Century BC to 6th C. AD): A New Architectural Analysis and Historical Implications (Kevin Ennis) [civ]

This paper analyzes the architectural remains of the thirteen excavated synagogues in the diaspora during the Greco-Roman period. Using new methodologies and technologies, this paper charts the evolution of the structure from the Second Temple period (516 BC to 70 AD) to the end of Late Antiquity. Although there was no formalized design process for the construction of synagogues in antiquity, these thirteen synagogues have numerous architectural features in common, which allow for the creation of typologies. This paper explores the historical implications of the differences between these synagogue types, in order to shed light on the evolving social and political conditions of Jewish diaspora populations in antiquity.

11. The Centauromachy: The Curious Case of the South Metopes (Maria Feliciano) [civ]

The most well-preserved and well-document metope sculptures of the Parthenon’s Doric frieze are also the most puzzling. While there is little doubt that the narrative the Parthenon’s south metopes tell is that of the Centauromachy, the purely mythical nature of this narrative raises questions about its significance to the Parthenon or Athenian history in general, especially as the building’s three other metope series are based largely on significant events in Athenian/Greek history (though told through myth). A comparative analysis of the surrounding metopes and Panathenaic way (the route visitors usually take when approaching the Parthenon), suggests that the obscure placement although essentially hidden from the visitors who did not wish to explore around the Parthenon further, the Centauromachy was the perfect culmination of the different themes and elements that the north, west, and east metopes portray.

12. The Anthesteria: Agrarian Origins Underscoring State-wide Significance (Michael Flanagan) [lang]

As we examine a festival such as the Anthesteria, it becomes clear that identity is a shifting phenomenon. By examining the key components of each of the three days of the festival, we will see that the Athenians both maintained the elements of the festival’s agricultural origins and carefully shaped its rituals in order to highlight the key pillars of Athenian-ness and the Athenian state itself. Ultimately the Anthesteria fulfilled both a religious duty to a god as well as the social function of uniting various groups under the purview of Athenian religious practice. Taken as a whole, the Anthesteria becomes a very effective example of the transformation of a festival with agrarian origins into a celebration of Athenian-ness. Walter Burkert related this notion most appropriately: “the Athenian becomes conscious of his Athenian-ness by the fact that he participates in the Anthesteria celebrations." The key element that helps to establish an ancient and, frankly, strange festival such as the Anthesteria as Athenian is the fact that Dionysus cults acted as a lens through which to view the separation of private groups from the polis, as well as the emergence of public festivals from the once arcane rites and rituals.

13. Francis Daniel Pastorius, the Classics, and Virgil's Aeneid in Early America (Christian Gilberti) [lang]

Francis Daniel Pastorius (1651- c. 1720) was a German lawyer, educator, botanist, linguist and all-around polymath who emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1683 and founded the Germantown settlement. A humanist scholar, Pastorius read classical texts for moral instruction and personal enjoyment, often citing them from memory. He was especially attracted to Virgil’s Aeneid, and this study focuses on the ways in which Pastorius imagined himself into the Aeneas myth. It also demonstrates how Virgil’s epic language aided Pastorius in his self-conception as a settler and in his portrayal of Pennsylvania in letters back home to Germany. Pastorius’s reading of the Aeneid is then compared with that of the Puritan fathers Cotton Mather and Benjamin Tompson in order to underscore the different ways in which early Americans were reading their Virgil.

14. Astrology of Ancient World: Astrology of Ancient World: An Analysis of One's Fate and Marriage Life (Jessie Jeong) [lang]

The paper analyzes the horoscope of the one female’s fate and her marriage life. As the ancients believed that the soul is connected to the rotation of the universe, interpretation of the stars’ positions and their relations is critical. The planets are considered to exert influences according to their characteristics. Each planet is believed to have different qualities and its position determines different aspects of human life. Furthermore, relations of planets such as their shape and angle within the zodiac influence the fate of one’s marriage. According to the analysis of the given horoscope, the fate of her marriage does not appear to be positive.

15. Athens and the Helot Rebellion on Mount Ithōmē (Markos Kapes) [arch]

The rebellion of the helots of Messenia in 465/4 constituted a great crisis for Sparta, such that they were forced to call on outside help in putting down the rebellion, including Athens. Yet, shortly after arriving, the Athenians were sent home.  This paper traces the reasons for reasons for Athens' presence in the first place, and the reasons for Athens being sent home, as well as positing the consequences that this had in Athenian-Spartan relations.

16. Two Kinds of Anticipations in Plato: Anticipations as Belief and Imagination about the  Future (Wenjin Liu) [lang] 

Belief (doxa) is a controversial notion in Plato that has attracted an enormous amount of scholarly attention. On the one hand, many commentators believe that Plato’s view about belief has undergone an obvious transition from the Republic to his later dialogues such as Theatetus, Timaeus, and Philebus. On the other hand, they disagree on the possible mental states that belief involves in later dialogues: it is controversial whether belief should be an exclusively rational and reflective mental state that can only be obtained by a conscious inner reflection. In comparison to the heated discussions that Plato’s conception of belief has prompted, his view about the mental state that presents inner images (eikonas or phatasmata), imagination, has been studied less. Even fewer studies have been done on the relationship between belief and imagination. Such an omission not only restricts our understanding of belief, but also perpetuates our neglect of Plato’s intriguing comment on anticipation (elpis), a mental state that involves belief and imagination about future states of affairs. 

17. Conversions through Witchcraft: A Comparison of the Two Metamorphoses (Sarah Lynch) [lang]

In this paper I undertake a methodical comparison of two separate instances of conversion between life and death. I look at Medea’s rejuvenation of Aeson in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Meroe’s murder of Socrates in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. The ways that the two authors portray witches depend upon the tone and purpose of each story, which are demonstrated through the differing motivations of the witches, the specific gods and goddesses invoked, and the formulaic ritual elements utilized in the conversion. The function of the comparison is to elaborate on the ways in which Latin literature can be reflective of Roman ideas about witchcraft and unconventional religion.

18. Pinning Down Proteus (Brett Miller) [civ]

This work compares the Homeric Proteus episode in the Odyssey with the parallel episode in the fourth book of Vergil’s Georgics in an attempt to explore the significance of the act of overcoming Proteus. By noting the apparent overlap as well as the more subtle differences that characterize Menelaus’ and Aristaeus’ approaches to conquering the Old Man of the Sea, the essay seeks to attribute unique and relevant (beyond the pages of the works) meaning to each episode. The investigation ultimately demonstrates the act of subduing Proteus to be, among other things, an analogy for intellectual investigation, a warning against inaction, and finally an affirmation of man’s ability to endure, to overcome, and to influence the world around him.

19. Farewell to Femininity: An Analysis of the Great Monologue in Euripides’ Medea (Julianna Pakstis) [lang]

In Euripides’s Medea features of poetic style, particularly the lexical and aspectual choices, reveal Medea’s Great Monologue (lines 1019-1080) to be a final revocation of her femininity and a turning point at which she embraces masculine revenge and the innovative plan to murder her own children. Medea traces, throughout the play, a continuum of gender roles found during Euripides’ time and, in a single character, charts their interactions and tensions.

20. Conversion as Rebirth after Death in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Daniel Siegel) [civ]

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, conversion occurs after death with the purpose of that creating new life to serve the same function as the one it replaces. This paper demonstrates that purpose through the examination of selected examples from throughout the poem. An analysis of these examples reveals how the poem served to teach the Roman people the philosophical concept of rebirth in order to parallel with the contemporary political landscape. This propaganda intended to reassure the Roman people of the Roman Empire’s stability, with the only exception to the rule in the poem acting to elevate Augustus even higher in the people’s eyes.

21. A Potion for the Goddess: Controlling Menstruation and Fertility through the Thesmophoria (Carly Sokach) [civ]

The Thesmophoria was an ancient Greek festival to Demeter long associated with agricultural fertility. However, literary evidence alludes to deeper correlations of the Thesmophoria with human, female fertility. Analysis of various pharmacological elements used in the ritual supports a group menstruation event that would have occurred as a grand exhibit of female fertility. This display and the timing of the Thesmophoria aligned with the lunar calendar, creating an annual ritual for women to restore their fertility and increase heir production. Socially and politically, this construct acts as a mechanism for the Greek patriarchy to have an additional layer of control over women. By placing the uncontrollable topic of female menstruation in a very regimented and organized ritual structure, both husbands and the polis are able to exert influence on the enigmatic nature of female fertility. However, cross-cultural evidence indicates that women could have utilized the Thesmophoria to control childbirth events, increasing their lifespans. The layering of these elements and multiple perspectives provides a much richer reading of the Thesmophoria and its function in ancient Greek society.

22. Golden Age in Vergil’s Fourth Eclogue: Octavian as Part of a Cycle or Beginning of a New Age? (Nathan Weinbren) [civ]

Vergil’s fourth Ecologue discusses the second coming of Rome as it emerges into a glorious second Golden Age. Written at a time of conflict during the end of the second triumvirate when Octavian and Antony were vying for power. Involved in this Golden age was the “savior” of Rome. Vergil’s description of this savior is notably ambiguous, perhaps as a symbol of an ambiguous time. His religious imagery portrays the cyclical nature of the age, contradicting and questioning the state’s proclamation of an upcoming Golden Age. The warning and Golden Age imagery suggests that it is the loss of farming that leads to warfare and turmoil in a state system; culture cannot trump nature.  

23. What does the Pot say of the Potter?: An Examination of the Ceramic Record from 3rd-c. BCE Egypt (Sarah Wilker) [civ]

This research investigates how increased Greek presence in 3rd-c. BCE Egypt affected the extant ceramic record, and addresses whether this record can be used to define the influence of Greeks on the local population. The sites of Coptos, Naukratis, and Gabbari at Alexandria are used as case studies. Ceramics recovered from these sites examined by fabric, form, and concentration reveal the presence of imported wares from the wider Mediterranean world, and of locally produced forms modeled on Greek styles. Based on existing evidence, it is concluded that the nature of local-foreign interactions cannot be determined from the surviving ceramic corpusz

24. Augustine’s Conversion in The Confessions (Andrew Zarate) [civ]

In thinking about Saint Augustine, he is often known for his work The Confessions and his conversion to Christianity. In this paper, by looking at the conversion scene in The Confessions more closely, I attempt to argue that Augustine’s conversion is marked by more than just a conversion to the acceptance of Christianity. Rather, it is marked moreso by the conversion from a normal way of life for an embracing of a lifestyle dedicated to God alone. Ultimately, it is not a lack of trust in God, but a fear of fully suppressing his own desires as a human, which prolongs his own conflict to convert.