Student Abstracts 2017

These abstracts of student coursework were submitted by seniors from the class of 2017 for Senior Colloquium, April 2017.

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

1. Health Care Revolution or Evolution?: A Comparative Analysis of the Theoretical and Structural Components of Health Care in Hellenistic Greece and under the Affordable Care Act (Claire Beamish)

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 was a watershed moment in American politics that promised to revolutionize the health care industry. However, the legislation’s controversial provisions, including the individual mandate and exchange system, resemble policies implemented in Hellenistic Greece during the 3rd Century BCE where government officials similarly adopted a hybridized health care system that combined public and private sectors. Thus, juxtaposing the health care structure in Hellenistic Greece against the system adopted under the ACA provides valuable insight that can better inform our current discourse regarding health care.

2. Alexander the Great: Immortalized by his Image (Timothy Bloom)

Over the course of his rule and continuing long after his death, the image of Alexander the Great, especially the one put forth by Lysippos, moved from symbolizing a conqueror, to being the symbol of a king, a hero, and ultimately a god. This model was then copied and used to legitimize the rule of his successors. By examining royal iconography on coins, mosaics, sculptures and other displays from the Hellenistic age, this paper aims to show that many of the rulers who claimed kingship used Alexander’s image as a way of claiming their own royalty, and attempting to show that they deserved the throne, despite the fact that Alexander didn’t have a legitimate heir at the time of his death.                                                                                                                                                                

3. Down with the Divine: An Atheistic Reading of Homer’s Iliad (David Burke) 

This paper, which served as my capstone assignment for Prof. Struck’s A Reading of the Iliad summer course, details my thought processes in attempting to extricate fact within fiction of causality in Homer’s rendition of the Trojan War. While toying with concepts bordering on atheistic fault lines, I elucidate through structured reasoning the problems inherent when broaching the subject of causality in a mythological context. Using only the original source material for reference, this paper allowed me to condense ideas and questions I had pondered throughout the six week long course into a single cohesive work.

4. Perspectives of Carthage: The Counter-Roman Argument Exists (Mia Chalhoub)

The Romans learned to record history from the Greeks who believed that proper historians should glorify their city to entertain their readers. Because of this, Rome espoused a widely accepted and negative view of Carthage, one that has seldom been challenged thanks to the lack of primary sources that have survived from the ancient city. The aim of this project is to prove that a counter-Roman argument for Carthage exists. It does so by searching for the origins of Rome’s famous aversion towards its former ally; analyzing different portrayals of Carthage’s famous founding myth; presenting the perspectives of a few ancient writers who challenged their contemporary Romans; and, finally, by introducing two modern perspectives of Carthage.

5. Lion Within: Plato’s Republic in Roman Upper Egypt (Jeremy Cohen)

The discovery, at Nag Hammadi in 1945, of a sealed jar filled with religious manuscripts reinvigorated the study of Gnosticism. One of the more confounding elements, found within the sixth codex, is a Coptic-language excerpt of the ninth book of Plato’s Republic. Building upon previous scholarship, this paper argues that the excerpt (Rep. IX 588a-589b), which relates a Socratic parable of the tripartite soul, was included as a necessary reference for understanding the seventh logion of The Gospel of Thomas, a non-canonical early Christian wisdom-text. When, in the 4th century, an audience member could not be guaranteed a background in classical Greek philosophy, the Coptic excerpt of Rep. IX could have sufficed. Further discussion surrounds the history of Roman Egypt and broader changes in Christian hermeneutics and canonicity between the 2nd and 4th centuries.

6. Translation as Transformation: A Case Study of Catullus 84 (Patricia Fox)

I examine how translators reconcile their artistic and literary goals with those of Catullus in two final projects I completed in the fall of 2016.  The first project completed for LATN 309: Catullus compares nine English translations of Catullus 84 that are diverse in form and style.  I analyze their uses of linguistic elements, comedy and parody, social commentary, and media to illustrate the diverse aims of translators. I also include an original translation of 84 completed for the course LING 103: Language Structure and Verbal Art. My translation attempts to balance linguistic form with poetic function informed by the nine translators I previously examined in LATN 309. These two complementary projects on Catullus 84 provide my answer to the question, “What does it mean to translate Latin poetry into English?”            

7. Pendant and Papyri: An Intertextual Analysis of Magical Inschriftenfiguren Gemstones (Michael Freeman)

Like many gemstones in the Penn Museum’s collection, gem 29-128-2140 was classified as a “Gnostic Gem” by its donor and curator, Maxwell Sommerville. Sommerville applied this classification to gems with unfamiliar glyphs, and he upheld that “the veil is almost impenetrable which obscures the history of everything that pertains to these little stone fetiches” (Sommerville, 1901, p.58). Going further, the professor of glyptology claimed that “The very disciples who carried those amuletic gems did so without understanding the meaning of the marks and symbols engraved upon them” (Sommerville, 1901, p.58). However, through an intertextual and comparative analysis of materiality, pictorial engraving, and textual inscription, a clear and specific system of meaning can be demonstrated and applied to this magical gem. First, the materiality of magical gems will be considered independently through a close examination of ancient mineralogical texts. Next, this gemstone’s inscription will be analyzed through a scrutiny of the gem’s comparanda and through a further comparison to gemstone literature, or lithika, in the magical papyri. Finally, our understanding of the gemstone’s material, image, and text will be synthesized to deduce the symbolic interpretation and function of gem #29-128-2140.

8. Camilla and Penthesilea: Lives and Afterlives (Cosette Gastelu)

In the latter half of the Aeneid, Vergil assigns Camilla, a character original to the epic, a major role in the war that breaks out between Aeneas’ army and the Latin troops. Since Camilla fails to prevent the Trojan invaders from emerging victorious, readers have often been puzzled by the extent to which Vergil fleshes out her story. This paper seeks to investigate the significance of the Camilla episode by examining her relationship to Penthesilea, one of several mythological figures frequently cited as a possible model for Vergil’s warrior-maiden. This paper traces the origins of the Penthesilea tradition back to the Aethiopis, a poem of the Epic Cycle, before delving into the more direct parallels between Camilla and Penthesilea that Vergil includes in his text. Attention is also given to the ways in which the bonds between Camilla and Penthesilea endured in medieval literature, specifically in Dante’s Inferno. Looking at portrayals of Camilla and Penthesilea alongside one another ultimately reveals insight into the importance of the position that Camilla occupies within Vergil’s re-creation of the Trojan War.

9. When Republics Fall: What the United States can learn from the internal faults that brought down the Roman Republic (Catharine Hopkins)

This project began with the thought of investigating the influence of the Roman Republic on the American Republic. Following a brief survey of Roman history from the foundation of the Republic in 509 BCE to the fall of the Republic in 31, factors of civil conflict, political upheaval, and rights of the common man were examined to determine what caused the fall of the Republic. These same factors were taken into account regarding the American Republic. Rome’s influence on the American founders may indicate similar problems in the later phases of the Republic here as well.

10. Adultery: A Violation of the Oikos and a Threat to the Polis (Liam Keenan)

This essay examines Lysias’s famous argument that adultery is a threat to the household and that a damaged household is a threat to the city. Throughout this essay, an analogy is drawn to the modern U.S. military, an organization that punishes adultery. Although it is rare for an active duty sailor, soldier, airman, or marine to receive disciplinary action stemming from adultery, the spirit and word of the law still shed important light upon the customs of the society to which it pertains. In the ancient world, and in modern America, adultery was not always perceived as a private affair within a particular household. In fact, the U.S. government justifies its prosecution of adultery via the Uniform Code of Military Justice on the proposition that adultery has the potential to harm unit morale and thus poison the affairs of the state as a whole. This is the same principle that Lysias expounded upon while writing his speech for Euphiletos thousands of years ago.

11. Health Differentials in the Aegean Bronze Age: The Impact of Sex and Status on Health Outcomes in the Mycenaen and Minoan Worlds (Alexander King)

Recent advances in biotechnology have resulted in a surge of published skeletal data from the Aegean Bronze Age. My project applies a population health research methodology to these data, seeking to pinpoint the primary determinants of health in the Mycenaean and Minoan worlds. I draw from 6 assemblages and analyze differential health outcomes via dentition, pathology, and skeletal identity (i.e. gender and age).  I conclude that sex and status are negatively correlated with health outcomes across assemblages. Potential explanations may include a high-carbohydrate and low-protein diet, restricted nutrition for females, and extensive labor during pregnancy.

12. Imperial Pretensions: The Building and Rebuilding of the Early Roman Empire in Suetonius (Reggie Kramer)

This project examines Suetonius’ perception of the transition from Republic to Principate. Itcompares his account of Augustus’ reforms after the Battle of Actium with his account of Vespasian’s reforms after the civil war of 69 CE. I argue that, by portraying these reforms asnearly identical but using different language to refer to Augustus’ and Vespasian’s actions, Suetonius acknowledges that the Principate was a departure from the Republic.

13. Schoolboy Commentary and Tacitus’ Agricola in 19th-Century England (Ray Lahiri)

This paper examines two nineteenth-century English school editions of Agricola, a biography written by the ancient Roman historian Tacitus. My project aims to understand the ways in which commentaries, modern explicatory texts affixed to a text in an ancient language, are historically conditioned and crucial parts of the (modern) reading experience of an ancient text. By examining how commentaries function and convey an interpretation of their source text, I develop an understanding of commentary as reception; through this I attempt to understand the ways that the English of the 19th century related to Tacitus’ Agricola, a text set in ancient Britain and, therefore, highly relevant to the nationalist project.

14. Plato and Aristotle on Democracy (Hannah Noyes)

This paper compares Artisotle and Plato’s views  on the intersection of Democracy and Philosophy. In the paper, I make an argument that Aristotle offers a more realistic and compelling thought as to what an ideal utopian society would be. I explain their dividing principles; that Plato seeks to create the idea of a perfect society, while Aristotle wants to reform the pre-existing society and teach citizens how to live a life of merit.

15. The Painted House at Gordion: Searching for Clues in Art and Archaeology (Diane Panepresso)

The Painted House at Gordion is a puzzling building. Fragmentary wall paintings found within it offer the only window onto the religious lives of Phrygian women in Achaemenid Anatolia. The building’s elaborate decoration, clearly influenced by Phrygian, East Greek, and Persian cultures, is at odds with its small size, obscure entrance, and subterranean position. Analysis of the fragmentary paintings, the building’s location, the nature of the interior space, and certain building materials suggest that we should link the Painted House to both cult activity and imperial administration, thereby forging a relationship between royal and divine in Achaemenid Gordion. The hybridity of cultures, the fragmentary nature of the architectural design, and a lack of comparable materials and textual evidence from Phrygia during this time hinder our ability to determine the precise purpose of the Painted House. In this paper, however, an array of options will be considered. It seems likely that this elaborately decorated building was used for the cult of the Phrygian Mother Goddess.

16. Isis, The Ka of the Flavian Gens (Lisa Picciotti)
The Flavian Emperors of the late first century CE embraced Isis as their patroness of war and recovery. The formal acceptance of the deity and her cult by Vespasian and his sons was reflective of the cultural synthesis that had occurred in the Roman Empire after the Battle of Actium. Egyptian past and Roman present were synthesized into a new reality, one in which emperors were now able to legitimize their authority under the auspices of a foreign deity. The Flavians embraced the savior goddess and tailored her to the needs of their personal politics. Isis served as the “Mistress of Destiny” for an empire that had been fractured by civil war. Under her guidance, Vespasian and his sons resurrected Rome and established a legacy based in part upon the principals of Hellenistic kingship. Isis was the spirit of the Flavian gens.
17. Conflict and Family in Homer’s Iliad (Rebecca Pritzker)

Homer’s Iliad opens with Achilles’ “rage”—which reflects the violence of the Trojan War (Iliad 1.2). Perhaps counterintuitively, though, interpersonal bonds simultaneously pervade the epic. From the patronymics that refer to warriors, to the bonds of brotherhood that unite both Agamemnon and Menelaus and Hector and Paris, to Achilles’ and Hector’s respective interpersonal relationships, Homer’s Iliad is as much an epic of human bonds as it is one of the war that damages those bonds. Why, though, does an epic ostensibly about human conflict place so much emphasis on human bonds? It is the project of this paper to examine that duality.

18. Eunomia in the Archaic Period of Greece (Natalie Reynolds)

I argue that the Archaic period of Greece involved political strife and a restructuring of the polis through the adoption of written legal codes. The narratives about four of the key lawgivers that Aristotle presents in Politics present a common theme that characterizes how this political strife was viewed and resolved. The lives of Zaleucus, Charondas, Lycurgus, and Solon all deal with the necessity of a return to eunomia from anomia. Moreover, evidence from the foundations of colonies and sacred law makes this focus on eunomia and the purity of a city even more explicit. Through these three focal points, I argue that the Archaic period can be seen as one in which communities struggle to deal with the disorder and uncertainty that accompanies increasing complexity within a polis.

19. Galen On Athletic Training (Jeremy Schwartz) 

Galen is famous for his harsh criticism of athletes and his anti-athletic attitude. This is surprising for his time in light of the generally high regard that  Imperial Roman citizens had for athletic activity. As it happens, however, from the earliest periods of ancient Greek culture, intellectuals in particular were expressing anti-athletic attitudes. Hippocrates, Euripides, Xenophanes, Socrates, and Plato for example all called into question the usefulness of athletic activity for training the body, for training soldiers, and for civic life.Such authors of the archaic and classical periods were clear influences on Galen.In this study, I describe Galen's anti-athletic discourse and analyze it in relation to earlier Greek thinkers.  Although his treatises seem violent and aggressively anti-athletic, my research will show that Galen’s resentment for the gymnasium was directed more towards athletic institutions during his time than towards athletic activity in general, and we will find that his position is far more rhetorical than it sounds.

20. Going to the Law: A Study of the Petitionary Process in Roman Egypt (John Stiffler)

The purpose of this paper is to re-examine one of the most debated questions in the study of Roman legal anthropology: why did citizens of Roman Egypt decide to petition state officials in order to resolve their disputes? The majority of scholarly answers to this question typically deal with issues of ancient legal comprehension, the role of law in the decision-making process, and especially the elements of the legal process that are attractive to petitioners. However, these answers often further polarize the debate and oversimplify the problems of understanding how petitioners operated. This paper deals specifically with synthesizing the scholarly debates present in the secondary literature with the surviving legal papyri in order to provide some new and different solutions to these issues, and more generally, to develop a richer understanding of how petitioners in Roman Egypt conceptualized the role of the legal process in resolving their disputes. Therefore, this paper argues for a more nuanced understanding of petitioning as part of a wider set of legal strategies that combines the structure and flexibility of the legal process in order to explain why citizens went to the law. 

21. Julius Canus: A Case Study in the Exemplarity of Death
 (Sam York)

My project was focused on a Roman aristocrat named Julius Canus, who was put to death by the emperor Caligula. The goal was to try to use Canus as a case study for the use of philosophical exempla. The two most noteworthy of the extant ancient sources referencing Canus are Seneca’s dialogue De Tranquillitate Animi, and a fragment from Plutarch quoted in the work of a 9th Century Byzantine chronographer named George Syncellus. As a result, I focused on these two engagingly different accounts of Canus’ death. In the paper I trace the ways in which Seneca and Plutarch use Canus as an exemplum through a close reading of the relevant passages of each text. I then looked at how Seneca and Plutarch’s accounts of Canus’ death each recall separate aspects of Socrates’ death in the Phaedo.