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Who, What, and Why?

Welcome to the official blog for the official podcast for Triumvir Clio’s School of Classical Civilization (available wherever fine podcasts are found).  I’m Beth, AKA Triumvir Clio, seen here with my favorite tyrant.  When I was a sophomore at Loyola University Chicago, my friend Maria and I took a class called “Epics and Classical Heroes” and it was so much fun that we both declared second majors in classical civilization as we entered our junior years.  By the time we were seniors, there were three women in the department, Maria, our friend JJ, and me.  We dubbed ourselves the new triumvirate and adopted names from ancient Greece.  Since my first major was history, I chose Clio, the muse of history.  Since getting that degree, I have returned to the works that we studied because I love them, and I’m looking forward to sharing that love with you.

So what will we cover at Triumvir Clio’s School of Classical Civilization?  Well, classical civilization, obviously.  Comedy and Tragedy.  Epics.  Philosophy.  History.  But here’s the easy part:  You don’t have to know Latin or Greek.  I don’t.  Or at least not enough to read everything in the original.  My degree is in classical civilization, which did not require us to learn the languages to appreciate the material.  And even though some translations are better than others, you don’t have to read any specific version.  Read what you can find.  Buy if you want to, in which case you should look for a translator who lived during dates you might remember, or check the books out from your library, or download them from Project Gutenberg or another free online source.  Do be aware that Project Gutenberg will likely mean an old translation, but you should still be able to understand what you’re reading.  I’ll always let you know whose translation I am using.  

Now, I know you’re asking why this matters.  The short answer is that it’s fun.  I wouldn’t have gotten this degree if that epics class hadn’t been so much fun.  But it’s about more than that.  There’s a reason that we’re still reading works that are nearly 3000 years old.  They speak to us.  The ancient tragedies teach us about human foibles while the comedies show that humor has not changed over the millennia.  The epics tell outward stories of inward journeys.  History shows us the seeds of the world in which we live today and patterns of which we should be aware as we work to change the future.  The philosophers give us new ways to view the world.  Classical civilization is not just one discipline.  It contains all of the humanities.  Sure, it is fun.  And as we’re having fun, we’re learning something more, something encompassed in that overarching term for these fields.  Humanities.  It is by studying the humanities that we learn a little more about ourselves, our place in the world, and what it means to be a human today.

I hope you will enjoy listening to me share my thoughts on classical civilization and that you will be inspired to join the discussion here on this blog.


Greek Myth XLIX: Pseudo-Apollodorus’s Bibliotheca Book III, Chapter VIII – Lycaon, Callisto, or Maybe You Should Have Stopped at 49

There’s a bear in the sky!

Discussion Prompts

  1. What’s the deal with 50 sons? Why are they always so ill-behaved? Do you think things would be different if there were only 49 of them?
  2. What do you think is the “real” story about Callisto?
  3. Which version of Callisto’s death do you prefer? Why?

Roman Epics XXV: Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book 4, or Bedtime Stories

Ovid goes meta by telling stories about people telling stories.

Discussion Prompts

  1. What’s the deal with the house of Cadmus and the very specific form of madness resulting in people thinking other people are animals and killing them with their bare hands? Why that specific curse?
  2. What do you think of Cadmus and Harmonia being turned into snakes? What does it say that they are peaceful snakes?
  3. Is there anyone left who doesn’t worship Bacchus?
  4. How do you think the rest of Minyas’s household feels when his daughters declare that they will keep working despite the mandatory celebration happening outside?
  5. What’s your favorite of the many stories told in this book? Why?

Greek Myth XLVIII: Pseudo-Apollodorus’s Bibliotheca Book III, Chapter VII – Epigoni, or The Ring Cycle

That necklace gets around…

Discussion Prompts

  1. Alcmaeon punishes his mother before he returns later to murder her. What do you think that first punishment is?
  2. Retell this story from Arsinoe’s perspective.
  3. Retell this story as though you are Euripides.
  4. Retell this story as though you are Callirrhoe.
  5. Retell this story as though you are Wagner.
  6. Why do you think this story might still speak to us today? What modern events does it make you think of?

Roman Epics XXIV: Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book 3, or Those Ancient Gods Are Vindictive

Listen to Tiresias, if you know what’s good for you.

Discussion Prompts

  1. Does anyone deserve their fate? Who? Why or why not?
  2. What would you do if you were Tiresias?
  3. What does this book have to say about the role of the gods in the lives of mortals?
  4. What does this book say to us today about fate? Life? Anything else?
  5. How would you tell the story of Echo from her perspective?

Greek Myth XLVII: Pseudo-Apollodorus’s Bibliotheca Book III, Chapter VI – Seven Against Thebes, or Including the Parts Aeschylus Left Out!

I think Aeschylus skipped some of these parts.

Discussion Prompts

  1. Is it really necessary for Amphiaraus to join the war? Why or why not?
  2. Was there ever really a possibility that sharing the throne of Thebes would work out? Why or why not?
  3. Tell this story from the point of view of Eriphyle.
  4. What does it mean that Amphiaraus is swallowed by the earth (with some help from Zeus, of course)?
  5. Why is Hera mad about Tiresias’s judgment? And why is Zeus happy?
  6. Why do you think disguising oneself as a Fury would make one desirable to Poseidon?

Roman Epics XXIII: Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book 2, or Hold Your Tongue!

Any number of individuals get in trouble for speaking rashly in Book 2 of Metamorphoses.

Discussion Prompts

  1. Why is Juno so upset about Jupiter’s creation of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor?
  2. What would you do if you were the Raven?
  3. What does the story of Phaethon have to say about generations? Parenting? Hubris?
  4. What do you think of the transformation of Phaethon’s sisters? How does this compare to the transformation of Niobe?

Roman Tragedy XII: Humanism in Roman Tragedy

Summing up our stoic tragedies

Discussion Prompts

  1. Do these tragedies achieve their goal of teaching about stoic philosophy? Why or why not?
  2. If you were to use theatre to teach stoicism, what would you do?
  3. What do these plays have to say about being human today?
  4. What do these plays have to say about love, hate, grief, family, gender roles, etc.?

Greek Myth XLVI: Pseudo-Apollodorus’s Bibliotheca Book III, Chapter V – Dionysus, Antiope, Amphion & Zethus, Oedipus, or Dionysus’s Bite Is Worse Than His Bark

So much territory to cover…

Discussion Prompts

  1. Is Dionysus an earth goddess? Why or why not?
  2. Niobe and Grief. Discuss.
  3. How difficult is the riddle of the sphinx? Does she already know the answer? Or is she trying to figure it out herself?
  4. Retell the whole Oedipus story from Jocasta’s point of view.
  5. Why do you think the pirates are turned into dolphins?
  6. Would you want to be the ruler of Thebes? Why or why not?

Roman Epics XXII: Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book 1, or Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

It’s a new epic! And a new poet! Ovid is going to change. Or at least write about changes. Something like that.

Another plug for the Galleria Borghese in Rome: This is where you can see Bernini’s beautiful, heartbreaking Apollo and Daphne. How that man managed to turn marble into flesh and bark and leaves, I don’t know. I recommend Googling to find more photos than what’s in the link above.

Discussion Prompts

  1. Compare and contrast the Book of Genesis and Book 1 of Metamorphoses.
  2. Do you think Ovid believes in any of the gods he’s writing about? Why or why not?
  3. Why do you think Ovid was banished?
  4. Was Ovid an epicurean? Why or why not?
  5. Which of the stories in Book 1 is your favorite? Why?
  6. How might these stories be different if Ovid were a woman?

Roman Tragedy XI: Pseudo-Seneca’s Octavia, or Definitely Not a Play by Seneca

You know it’s not going to be good when Nero is your husband…

Discussion Prompts

  1. Why do you think this play was attributed to Seneca?
  2. Who is the best stoic? Why?
  3. Discuss the character of the nurse. How would you portray her?
  4. Directing questions: Vision, Setting, Dream Cast, etc.
  5. What does this play (and family) tell us about ambition?
  6. Who holds the power in this play? Why?