Student Abstracts 2021

These abstracts of student coursework were submitted by seniors from the class of 2022 for Senior Colloquium, April 2022.

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

1.Matan Davis: The Writing is On the Wall: Dialogic Insults on the Walls of Pompeii [LANG]

In this thesis, I explore the role of insulting graffiti in establishing social dialogue at Pompeii. I will first define insult and introduce the graffiti medium as well as lay out the variations of insult that appear throughout the city of Pompeii. I will then discuss how abusive language and graffiti work in tandem to create dialogues of insult in relation to the writer, target and audience. Finally, I provide two case studies, one private house (The House of the Silver Wedding) and one public building (the basilica), and examine their insulting graffiti within their original spatial contexts, investigating the spatial and societal factors that produced these dialogues of insult. The writers of these insulting graffiti display a propensity for interacting not only with the targets of their insults but also with members of the general public who viewed them. In attacking another person or group on public or private walls, Pompeiian scriptores invited viewers to react and respond, either physically or emotionally, thereby creating dialogues of insult that dotted the walls of the city

2. Kathryn Kelly: Representations of Memnon throughout Antiquity and in Contemporary Classical Studies: An Examination of the Epic Hero’s Ethiopian Ethnicity [CIV]

This paper examines the portrayals of Memnon, the hero of the lost Greek Epic Aethiopis, throughout antiquity as well as in contemporary scholarship. Using the analysis of ancient textual and visual sources, it considers whether Memnon’s Ethiopian ethnicity is integral to his characterization. It also explores his association with the character of Achilles and how the two heroes mirror one another in iconography. Finally, it looks at the contemporary scholarship on Memnon, including discussions about his race, the Neoanalytic theory that the Aethiopis predates the Iliad, and his possible Egyptian origin.

3. Amelia Marion, Searching for Carthage in Plautus’ Poenulus: An Exploration of Punic Culture in Roman Literature [CIV]

This paper focuses on the Roman comedy Poenulus by Plautus, centered around a close reading of the play that examines the construction of Carthaginian culture within the text. Because Rome later destroyed all Carthaginian internal documents during the Third Punic War, Roman and Greek external accounts, such as this one from Middle Republican Rome, are virtually all the literature we have from antiquity to investigate Punic culture. Plautus’ title character, the Carthaginian Hanno, provides a fascinating study from which we can reconstruct early Roman stereotypes of the Punic people (including the famous Punica fides) and offers several key insights into Carthaginian culture, including Punic speech, dress, and a possible value system.

4. James Nycz: Individual Agency and Economic Decision- Making in the Fourth-Century Great Oasis of Roman Egypt [ANCH]

What can labor tell us about personal agency and decision-making among the individuals we can see in the historical sources? This paper examines the labor performed by workers in the Kellis Agricultural Account Book to uncover the economic strategies inhabitants of the Great Oasis used to make a living. This analysis finds that these workers employed a variety of tactics to get by, with these economic decisions being informed by a reciprocal relationship with their environment. The specific responses of the inhabitants of the Great Oasis to their environment showcases the socioeconomic diversity of Roman Egypt.

5. Christina Recto: Learning My ABCs: A Between Culture Comparison of Ancient and Modern Educational Reform [CIV]

This paper compares Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria with the 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council entitled Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8, sources which both offer ideal visions of educational reform. Rather than conceptualizing each source as generalizations of their respective cultures, the paper will explore how the contemporary context of each source influences their recommendations and resulting legacies. We will see that while both sources are guided by practices which account for childhood development, the specific recommendations offered by each reveal differences between their respective societies—in particular, differences in the beneficiaries of education and educational structures.

6. Cate Simons: Martial and the Art of Deflection: Martial’s Use of Mythological References as a Tactic to Divert the Unwanted Gaze [LANG]

This paper examines Martial’s use of mythological allusions to create a farcical portrait of the imperial family. The paper argues that Martial uses coded language to equate Domitian and his extended family with various Olympian counterparts. Martial associates Domitian with Jupiter, Domitia with Juno, Julia with Venus, Earinus with Ganymede, Domitilla with Cybele and Vespasian with Saturn. These mythological associations allow Martial to highlight the humorous aspects of the family’s foibles; for those with the wit to discern his intentions, Martial’s epigrams showcase the comic failings of a powerful family whose flaws made them easy targets for Martial’s surreptitious satire.

7. Jordan Tayeh: The Barbarian Doctrine: Reframing Eastern Alienation and the Religion of the Alien God [CIV]

My senior research paper examines the fascinating world of Gnosticism: who the Gnostics were, what they believed, and how they fit into a complex Mediterranean world of varied peoples and faiths. I argue that Gnosticism was a means by which colonized peoples in  the Near East could create a coherent identity in the face of Greco-Roman imperialistic threat. Gnosticism, by incorporating and restructuring elements of Near Eastern goddess worship, emerged as a social and spiritual repudiation of a globalized Mediterranean world.

8. Christopher Williams: An Analysis of Transportation Burden Sharing in Roman Egypt as Evidenced through Papyri [ANCH]

Roman Egypt appears to be a world in which transportation was costly and minimized to as great an extent as possible. Transportation remained, however, vital to Roman Egypt and its trade. An analysis of contracts, leases, and letters yields insight into how transportation burdens. This study of papyri aligns with the consensus that transportation was generally expensive and individuals attempted to minimize their own transportation burden. Transportation was such an important consideration that goods were considered in relation to the transport burden which they posed, even for goods which were not yet produced. It not only matters that a given commodity was produced, but also who would transport it to its final destination. were assigned and mitigated on an individual level.

9. Rachel Winicov: Relationships of Power in the Sixth Century CE Syrian Religious Milieu [CIV]

Power is embedded in both sides of every relationship, including in religious populations and their interpersonal dynamics in sixth century CE Syria. As seen through three highlighted anecdotes by John of Ephesus and Severus of Antioch, the laity, the holy man, monks and bishops all reciprocally claim power on and through one another– power which is often rejected or reclaimed by the receiving party. There was no top-down power structure in sixth century Syria. The laity influenced their bishop, monk, and holy men, just as those religious figures influenced the laity.