Student Abstracts 2022

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. Saffiya Bashey: Hellenistic Representation of Erotic Desire in Visual Art [CIV]

Love and desire are two fundamental human experiences, and the visual arts have engaged with these emotions across time and place. In this paper, I will examine the thematic elements associated with erotic desire in Hellenistic domestic objects and will consider how desire and affection are both evoked and interpreted by their users. In the process, I will compare stylistic features of Hellenistic artwork with those of earlier time periods, highlighting the intimacy and mutuality that is often presented in Hellenistic erotic art. By analyzing funerary dedications, jewelry, and pragmatic household objects that represent eroticism and desire through both divine and mortal figures, I will provide insight into the beliefs and fantasies of the community that interacted with it.

2. Brandon Block: Wealth, Prestige, and… Miracle Cures? The Economic Dynamics of the Asklepieion at Epidauros [CIV]

This paper centers around the exploitative and competitive habits of the Asklepiad priests at Epidauros, as revealed through extant textual and archaeological materials. Previous scholarly explorations of the Epidaurian Asklepieion were apt to neglect or trivialize the role of financial motives in constructing religious claims, rituals, and sanctuary operations. Critical analysis of the iamata, Pausanias’ Description of Greece, and Herodas’ Mimiambs, among other sources, from an economic perspective offers considerable insight into the commercial environment cultivated by the Epidaurian priesthood. Within the temenos, priestly manipulation and competitive stratagems were inextricable from expressions of piety and medical philanthropy.

3. Caroline Buchner: The Greek Polis: Women and Sacrifice [CIV]

In the Ancient Greek religion, ritualistic sacrifice functioned as a marker for social hierarchy among classes and reinforced the patriarchy in the Greek polis. Many cults prohibited the participation of women in all aspects of the sacrifice, including both the slaughtering of the animals and the distribution of the meat for consumption. This paper examines the ideas of scholars such as Jean Pierre-Vernant, Marcel Detienne, and more to reveal how the concept of “miasma” or impure pollution due to a woman’s menstruation was to blame for their exclusion in sacrifice. This analysis further reveals the relationship between the patriarchy and religious practices in the Ancient Greek polis.

4. Jackson Clark: Geophysical Prospection at Motya [ARCH]

Geophysical prospection allows for archaeological information to be acquired in a nondestructive manner. In many cases, it can both increase the size of the area surveyed and pierce the veil on areas where excavation is impossible. This brief research paper discusses the archaeology of the Sicilian Isola San Pantaleo (known locally as Mozia) and the benefits that geophysical prospection has brought its most recent archaeology team. This small island was the site of a Phoenician outpost and later a Carthaginian city, prior to its destruction by Syracuse in 397 BCE. During the summer of 2021, a study undertaken by the University of Palermo and the Penn Museum was conducted in a vineyard that could not support traditional excavation methodology

5. Sara Chopra: Translating the Translators: A Comparative Approach to Contemporary Translation of the Priam-Achilles Dialogue in Book 24 of the Iliad [LANG]

Since coming to life thousands of years ago in the ancient Mediterranean, the story of the Iliad has persisted through time and space, transcending forms, cultures, and languages. Focusing on the dialogue between Priam and Achilles in the final book of the Iliad, this comparative translation project aims to explore how the Homeric epic is currently presented to contemporary readers through English translations. To facilitate this examination, this project puts forth both an original translation of the Priam-Achilles encounter (Iliad 24.471-620) and an in-depth comparative analysis of several published translations of the scene, in conjunction with the author’s own.

6. Ashley Fuchs: Podcast: Palmyra and the Story of a Stone [CIV]

The producer of the jazz radio show Meet Me at West 43rd and Broadway, in partnership with the Classical Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania, present a new podcast dedicated to the exploration of cultural heritage. Using Palmyra as a case study, host Ashley Fuchs considers how the city’s material culture shapes collective identity, both locally and globally, and analyzes the consequences of its destruction by ISIS militants in 2015. The underlying relationship between cultural heritage and identity as well as the complexities associated with determining what groups are injured by the destruction of cultural heritage—factors discussed in relation to Palmyra—are then applied to recent debates in the United States regarding the removal of controversial Confederate statues.

7. Cecelia Heintzelman: Cases and Casts: A Diachronic Study of the Mediterranean Section of the Penn Museum [ANCH]

This paper is a diachronic study of the changes to gallery displays of the Penn Museum’s Mediterraean Section, which include the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan Gallery. I have examined the ways in which objects have been displayed in the gallery spaces and the changes in gallery design over the course of the museum’s history, looking at the gallery spaces from their first installation, with the bulk of the analysis occurring in the 20th century. My work necessitated a use of catalogue records, board meetings, acquisition history, and photos of old galleries and their plans. I found that the Penn Museum’s gallery display in the Mediterranean section responded to changing trends for gallery display in museums, based on changing museum practices and display tastes. As museums exist as representatives of culture, their gallery display practices reflect the ethics of society, archaeology, and culture.

8. Stephen Jagoe: Virgil’s Universal Prophecy: Judeo-Roman Interaction in Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue [LANG]

Since the time Virgil published the Fourth Eclogue people have debated the identity of the poem’s mysterious child. The early Christian philosophers claimed Virgil unwittingly prophesied the birth of Christ, an idea that would continue for centuries. This paper does not defend this viewpoint, however, it does argue that several elements of the Fourth Eclogue share similarities with Jewish prophecy and that Virgil’s contact with these sources before and during the composition of the poem is not unlikely. The argument that follows is based on textual analysis of the Fourth Eclogue, as well as an examination of Judeo-Roman contact during the first century BCE.

9. Nicholas Kotler: The Rise of the Imperial Cult and the Reception in the City of Rome [ANCH]

This paper looks at the birth of the Imperial Cult and the reaction that occurred in Rome. To explore this, the paper first looked at Caesar, starting after his victory in the Civil War and following through to his death. Then, in the aftermath of Caesar, the power struggle between Antony and Octavian was explored. Following this, the reign of Augustus through the death of Tiberius was looked at. Throughout each of these periods, how these rulers employed ruler cult and the response of the people in Rome were explored.

10. Spencer Landis: Plotinian Metaphysics and the Non-Discursive: A Glimpse into the Divine [CIV]

Within the Enneads, a sweeping philosophical corpus inaugurating the Neoplatonist tradition, Plotinus characterizes linguistic representation as temporally debased and epistemologically insufficient. Denying language’s ability to express truths in their most complete and original forms, Plotinus instead elucidates a metaphysical system whose primary ontological principles—the Intellect and the One—transcend discursiveness. In doing so, Plotinus imbues a fascinating tension in his fifty-four treatises designed to illuminate the Intellect, the One, and their non-discursive truths through discursive reasoning. A symptom of this tension, Plotinus’ impossible endeavor to capture such transcendent truths results in language that is deeply figurative and allegorical. This paper explores the Enneads’ figurative language as a means of untangling the juxtaposition between Plotinus’ discursive descriptions and his elevation of non-discursive truths. As an entry point into this inquiry, this paper specifically examines the motif of birth pains across four treatises. Ultimately, the paper considers the epistemological dimension to Plotinus’ use of figurative language, exploring his conception of metaphor as that which is rooted in language but whose cognitive processing represents an elevating force atypical of discursive reasoning in its spiritually uplifting appeals to experience and affect.

11. Alicia Lopez: Abelard’s Planctus: Innovation, Performativity, and Adaptation [CIV]

Amidst the Middle Ages, the planctus became a well-known but poorly defined genre. Usually used to illustrate mythological or Christian tragic figures, the genre lent itself to song and theatre performance in addition to text. Breaking all traditions of the genre, Peter Abelard’s Planctus incorporates aspects of adaptation and theatricality/performativity and raises questions about the work’s primary audience, possible performers, and the history of little-known figures like Jephthah’s Daughter, a character not named in the Bible. While Abelard’s Planctus may not have been widely circulated, his manipulation of both the genre and the story of Jephthah’s daughter first shows the traditions of the genre, then subsequently breaks the mold and becomes something entirely new

12: Amanda O’Brien: The Odyssey’s Women as Ethnographic Portraits (CIV)

This paper performs a semi-ethnographic reading of The Odyssey as it pertains to three female characters: Odysseus’ wife Penelope, the goddess Athena, and the witch Circe. It conducts an analysis of how these characters are described and the various functions they perform in the text, as well as how these characterizations may have translated into the perception of ancient Greek women during the time in which The Odyssey was being circulated in the oral tradition. The women discussed here are specifically evaluated through a moral lens that determines their reception as role model by their audience and their ultimate fate within the story of Odysseus.

13. Jenna Pollack: Bowdlerizing Platonic Sexuality—Women Are Still Missing [CIV]

Christianity dominated philosophical and ethical thought in Renaissance Italy, a setting in which original Platonic texts were revisited. These texts, which often featured homoerotic elements, received mixed reactions from Renaissance philosophers. Some viewed these texts as paganistic, and others believed that Plato’s philosophy was compatible with Christianity. Those who believed that Plato was a Christian prototype attempted to make his writings more acceptable to a Christian audience by editing them in translation, or what some Platonic scholars call “bowdlerization.” This paper discusses these modifications, specifically those of Leonardo Bruni and Marsilio Ficino. These translators deemphasized sexuality in Platonic passages that describe love. These Renaissance and Christian writers attempt to promote procreative, marital sex, in line with Christian doctrine, and they still indicate a strong prejudice against women.

14. Princess Rahman: Social Measures and Eligibility: Exploring how the Eleusinian Mysteries  Complemented State-Sponsored Festivals in Ancient Greece [ANCH]

Ancient Greek mythology is recognized for its fluidity in its expression of the divine. This feature lends the faith-based ideas of the Ancient Greeks to divisive interpretations. These interpretations substantiate the stipulations inflicted on potential entrants for religious activities. Through examining sites of worship and the social statuses of participants, there are implications that suggest state-sponsored religious festivals restricted accessibility to religious participation. This dynamic is profound and many scholars have studied this relationship. This research paper will emphasize the social constructs of class and gender that Ancient Greek states exercised to screen participants for their eligibility to participate. Analyzing the Eleusinian Mysteries is the mechanism by which these considerations are examined and challenged. This paper ultimately seeks to use The Eleusinian Mysteries to support the state sanctioned practice of bias when determining who can participate in religious activities. These findings establish opportunities to further explore how elite social groups in Ancient Greece incorporated groups of inferior statuses into its religious sphere on the state level.

15. Isabelle Schatzker (SRP): Eclectic Identities in the Material Landscape: Reconsidering Decorative Function and Perceptions of Space in the Houses of Pompeii’s Non-Elite [CIV]

In this paper, I argue that long-standing models comparing non-elite houses of Pompeii to luxury villas of the area remain as critical frameworks, though they approach the material culture of non-elite figures from a “top down” perspective. On the basis of three case studies, the House of Octavius Quartio, the House of the Moralist, and the House of Maius Castricius, I challenge these comparisons to demonstrate how owners and viewers were both active figures in the construction of domestic identity and to prove that these houses articulated values independent of elite influence. Making use of recent scholarship, I observe that the houses serve as models to examine questions of eclectic decorative taste, participatory viewership, and movement through domestic spaces.

16. Elizabeth Vo Phamhi: Conceptions of Status, Welfare, and Success for Freedmen in Early Imperial Rome [CIV]

Few social boundaries are starker than the one between slavery and freedom. Roman liberi, or freedmen, lived in the liminal space between these polarities as they held dual identities as ex-slaves and new citizens. While much scholarship has focused on elite conceptions of the freedman’s place in society, there is still a poor understanding of how freedmen perceived themselves and what it meant to them to live a successful life. This paper investigates how Roman freedmen conceived of success under the early empire, and more specifically, what elements were critical to the idea of achieving status, welfare, and a life well lived. First, literary and legal evidence, as well as secondary scholarship, are assessed in order to problematize our understanding of how freeborn citizens may have perceived freedmen. This analysis shows that early imperial Roman society sent freedmen mixed signals about how much success they could and should attain. The paper then turns to archaeological evidence. In the absence of freedmen-authored literary testimony, the tombstones of freedmen can offer an emic perspective into their ideas about identity, status, and welfare through self-representation. Six archeological case studies reveal that freedmen had well-defined notions of success and welfare, particularly in their emphasis on family, career growth, and honors.

17. Olivia Wells: Bringing Conchiclam Apicianam to Life: An Experimental Archaeological Investigation of a Multi-Ingredient Dish from Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria [ARCH]

Food cultivation, creation, and diet are important research avenues as they are intertwined with the social, cultural, and economic processes of society. Archaeological research has focus on identifying single types of food within the record rather than complex, multi-ingredient dishes. This study focuses on the only Roman-period cookery book, Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria, and uses it as the basis for an experimental archaeological investigation of multi-ingredient food remains. Diagnostic features from these experiments show that by creating a reference collection demonstrating how whole recipes appear in the archaeological record after carbonization, archaeologists will be aided in identifying multi-ingredient dishes, like those that appear in De Re Coquinaria, to better understand Roman diets and cooking techniques.