2012 Undergraduate Research Symposium

Sunoikisis is pleased to announce the presenters for the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on Friday, April 27. The Center for Hellenic Studies will host and webcast the symposium. The symposium schedule is forthcoming.

“The Poetics of Purification: Orestes’ Spiritual Revival (Eum. 235-43)”
Adam Connor, University of Vermont

This paper analyzes Aeschylus’ poetic treatment of Orestes’ psychological transformation as expressed in his prayer to Athena at Eumenides 235-43. Aeschylus’ presentation of the newly purified Orestes as confident and composed marks a pronounced shift of tone since the hero’s last appearances in the trilogy (e.g., Cho. 1061-2 and Eum. 85-7). Orestes’ new confidence and clarity is reflected in the polished eloquence and structural congruence of his speech, which serves to underscore the hero’s new state of mind and his faith in the just resolution to come. While Dyer (1969) and Sidwell (1996) have closely examined the details and significance of Orestes’ ritual purification, and Sommerstein (1989) adroitly notes the resulting change in temperament, no one, including Lebeck (1971), seems to have done full justice to the way that Aeschylus signals this sea change artistically by his use of language. My paper — a close stylistic analysis of Orestes’ speech that highlights Aeschylus’ use of, e.g., ring composition, verbal parallelism, word placement, and enjambment — is a contribution to this end. In Orestes’ prayer, I argue, Aeschylus foreshadows the imminent end to the long chain of vengeful murders in the House of Atreus and thus lays the foundation for the trilogy’s peaceful conclusion.

“In Med(e)as Res: Seneca the Advisor on the Familial Concerns of Claudius and Jason”
Michelle Currie, Rhodes College

As an intimate advisor in the imperial household, Seneca knew firsthand the difficulties rulers could have in maintaining their power. Though scholars have already scoured his tragedies for instances of historically relevant themes, they have generally neglected the extent to which his mythological rulers confront dilemmas familiar to the earliest Roman emperors. Medea in particular reflects Seneca’s awareness of what it meant to wield power at Rome in the first century CE. Jason’s first appearance at lines 431-444 provides a glimpse into the inner workings of a princeps’ mind as he considers his choices regarding an issue each ruler faced:  how to manage his family in a just yet beneficial manner. Claudius, for instance, struggled with the consequences of a series of problematic, politically-inspired marriages and their bearing on questions of succession. Similarly, Jason must resolve predicaments arising from his abandonment of a formerly valuable wife, the allure of new alliances, and his desire to retain his current heirs.

The remarkable similarities between Claudius and Jason’s circumstances suggest that Seneca wished to draw attention to the ways a ruler’s personal life influenced his acquisition and maintenance of power. Their shared trials hint that success as an emperor hinged in substantial part on one’s ability to decisively resolve intrafamily struggles. On stage as in life, the dura fata and sors aspera of a ruler in such a dilemma reveal the significance and implications that these very political decisions may have had on rulers and their potential power (431).

“A Colorful Quandary: An Exploration of Color Terms in Homeric Poetry”
Erica Eickhoff, University of Virginia

Color terms in Homer, specifically the Iliad and Odyssey, are not clearly defined, and many of their definitions cannot be applied consistently. I examine a number of color terms and try to find some factor that might explain the seemingly strange applications of the term. Because color is a cultural construct, different languages divide the spectrum differently, and important descriptive factors may go beyond the realm of hue and consider other aspects of appearance, such as brightness or reflectivity. By examining context, synonyms, as well as etymology, the application of these terms appears more cohesive. For example, πορφύρεος refers to a variety of things in Homer, including blood, death, the rainbow, the sea, and dyed fabric. Etymological evidence suggests that πορφύρεος is two separate words, homonyms, which may account for the apparent disparity in its use. A comparison between αἶθοψ and αἴθων, two etymologically related words, reveals very little overlap in the words they describe. This difference may suggest a difference in hue or brightness between the two. Another comparison is that between κυάνεος, and κελαινός, examining their usage and meaning. In Homer, both mean dark, but changes in later Greek, κυάνεος changes, and often means blue. This research is useful because it allows for a better understanding of Homeric language and culture.

“St. Justin and the Graeco-Roman World: An Analysis of Justin’s Presentation of Christianity as the Fulfillment of Graeco-Roman Tradition”
Trey Frye, Southwestern University

In the second century AD, Christianity faced attacks from the Graeco-Roman world because the Romans viewed the Christian religion as a threat to philosophical traditions which formed the foundation of their society. Our evidence suggests that most early Christians did not respond to or answer specific charges, but St. Justin the Martyr, the first Christian philosopher, openly dealt with these accusations throughout his writings. This paper will focus on how Justin presents Christianity as a way of life within which is the fulfillment of Graeco-Roman traditions. For example, Justin attempts to argue throughout his work that specific philosophers who rejected traditional paganism were actually Christians who lived before Christ because they lived by reason (I Apology 46). Conclusions from this analysis will be placed within the broader context of Graeco-Roman Christians’ perceptions of their relation to the traditions of the Graeco-Roman world.

“Crossroads of Cultures: Dionysos and Spirited Celebrations in Macedonian Preparation for the Experience after Life”
Alisha Kasparec, St. Olaf College

Respected ancient authors, Herodotos and Plato among them, strongly contend that ancient Macedonians drank unmixed wine and that they drank it heavily. Many scholars, including Eugene Borza and Norika Sawada, make a connection between these drinking habits and the Macedonian archaeological remains of rooms with raised platforms on which men could recline on κλίναι. As the authoritative figure on the subject, Oswyn Murray writes that southern Greeks held controlled, structured symposia in these rooms. Sawada imposes those supposedly intellectual and tastefully entertaining procedures of southern Greek symposia on Macedonian practices while still asserting Macedonians’ perceived excessive drunkenness. In so doing, Sawada does not contribute to a modern understanding of ancient Macedonian practices, which scholars have neglected, but in fact jeopardizes a foundational understanding of Macedonian society by uncritically extending Greek proceedings onto Macedonian people.

With particular attention to the analysis and application of archaeological evidence, I address the Macedonian customs with a grounded interest in not only the existence of Macedonian drinking practices but also their implications and applications in daily life. Through in-depth studies of Macedonian coins, structural remains, mosaics, and grave goods, which Greek literature do not taint, the visible relationship between Dionysos and Macedonian drinking practices creates a previously unseen juxtaposition between recently imposed Athenian traditions and authentic Macedonian practices. This reliable physical evidence tells a previously untold story in which Macedonians did not continuously venerate Dionysos simply because of his relationship to wine but because veneration through spirited celebrations prepared Macedonians for the experience after life.

Antigone Re-Crystallized: Ancient Myth in Modern Times”
Georgia LoSchiavo, Southwestern University

The crystallization of myths, as discussed by Walter Burkert, has always intrigued me. During studio art courses, along with a personal study of graphic art, it occurred to me that the graphic novel was an art form well-suited to recrystallization, particularly for ancient plays that now, rarely performed, lose their visual impact. The Antigone presented itself as an especially interesting play from which to approach an experiment, due to its range of Greek cultural mores that are challenging to translate into concepts accessible to a modern audience. I am adapting the play into about 23 pages, translating key scenes myself and researching scholarship for the overall meaning.

My presentation will consider the process of re-crystallization and the process of visual translation of Greek cultural values into a current medium and for a modern audience. I will present three pages: Antigone mourning Polynices, Haemon’s initial praise of Creon, and Antigone and Haemon in the bridal chamber/tomb. For each, I will briefly discuss scholarship on the overarching theme of the scene, and my choices in how to interpret those themes within the medium to bring forth a story that is accurate to the original, while still appealing to a modern audience. For example, while a modern audience could simply interpret Haemon as a coward for deferring to his father, an exploration of the culture behind his actions renders him a much more complicated and interesting character (H. Foley, Female Acts in Greek Tragedy); my goal is to make such distinctions clear.

“Fatal Mistakes: The (Mis)Informing of Dido and Eve in the Aeneid and Paradise Lost
Molly Saunders, Agnes Scott College

Both Vergil’s Aeneid and Milton’s Paradise Lost feature a prominent female character whose fate is tied to that of the poems’ male protagonist. However, while Aeneas and Adam are made explicitly aware of their fates through intermediaries like Mercury and Raphael, the information given to Dido and Eve comes in the form of dreams and prophecies which mislead them and compel them into fatal misreadings of their situations. For Dido, her ignorance of fate (nescia fati 1.299) leads to a misunderstanding of her and Aeneas’s relationship, her reading his actions as the abandonment of their marriage, and her eventual suicide. For Eve, her curiosity leads her to question the laws that Adam blindly obeys, but her lack of reliable information causes her be deceived by Satan’s arguments for eating the fruit of knowledge. This paper argues that Dido and Eve are emblematic for forces that must be overcome in order for the overall projects of the male protagonists to succeed. In the larger scheme of the Aeneid, Dido represents the foreign obstacles to the foundation and success of Rome, including but not limited to the Carthaginians. Eve, in turn, personifies the impulsive, sensual, and questioning aspects of humanity, which must be suppressed within the bounds of Milton’s Calvinist doctrine. This paper employs close textual analysis to examine the information Dido and Eve receive and situate the significance of their mistakes within the larger context of Augustan Rome and 17th century Calvinism.

“Cultural Hybridization in Roman Britain: The Case of the Curse Tablets”
Carly Silver, Barnard College, Columbia University

This paper examines the curse tablets found in the temple of Sulis Minerva in Bath, Roman England. These texts are part of a Greco-Roman tradition of cursing criminals on lead tablets. These curse tablets, then, can be regarded as a product of cultural hybridization. Such processes can be classified as Romanization, which has traditionally been defined as the Romans bringing civilization to the outlandish barbarians, focused on imperialism as an exploitative measure, or concentrated on “self-Romanization” as a move by local elites to gain a share of the proceeds of empire. Instead of creating a singular culture, the political interaction between Roman and native produced a new social formation. Thus, a new social situation came about as a result of various cultural influences combining to create a new one.

British curse tablets represent a new religio-cultural artifact emerging from a combination of Greco-Roman and British influences. The expansion of Romanization hardly erased “local and regional structures”: as a result, Mediterranean influences did not subsume indigenous British culture, but merged with it to produce a new item that was a product of both Britain and Rome. The Greco-Roman origin of the curse tablet with the British preoccupation of appealing to the gods for vengeance of thefts produced the unique cultural artifact that was the defixio at Bath and Uley.

“Implicit Characterization in Plato’s Euthyphro
Jillian Stinchcomb, University of Notre Dame

In this paper, I will argue for a reading of Plato’s Euthyphro that has not been prominently discussed in recent scholarship. I will show that Euthyphro is a counterpart to Meletus, Socrates’s accuser, and that Euthyphro’s dialogue with Socrates implicitly alludes to central issues in Meletus’ case against Socrates. Both Meletus and Euthyphro are young traditionalists who prosecute older men out of an overzealous interpretation of religious duties, and both do great harm.

In the dialogue, Socrates meets Euthyphro at the King’s Stoa where Socrates is awaiting his pre-trial proceedings. Euthyphro explains that he is prosecuting his father for the accidental manslaughter of a servant. The Athenians believed that murder created a miasma that polluted the city, so his prosecution is a fundamentally religious act, but filial piety was also an important aspect of Greek religion. Knowing this, Socrates asks for his justification. Euthyphro attempts to align himself with Socrates as he explains that his actions are pious, but as Socrates asks him what exactly piety is, Euthyphro makes it clear that he is much more like Meletus than Socrates. The rest of the aporetic dialogue focuses on the precise definition of piety.

Though the characterization is brief, Plato shows a number of differences between Euthyphro and Socrates; as these multiply, the parallel between Meletus and Euthyphro becomes clear. This interpretation allows for a playful Socratic irony. Both Meletus and Euthyphro show through their unnecessary litigation that they need Socrates to disrupt them from their pretentions to wisdom.

“Sexuality and Intellectualism in Classical Athens”
Leigh Ann Voulgaris, Kalamazoo College

Since the latter half of the twentieth century, there has been a proliferation in scholarly attention devoted to sexual behavior in classical antiquity. However, the role of intellectualism within classical Athenian sexual institutions has received only a small fraction of the scholarly consideration it deserves. It is no coincidence that the courtesan was merely a prostitute if she was not educated or that an adolescent male gained wisdom through a sexual relationship with an older man. In the elite social sphere of classical Athens, men could only take pride in sexual relationships that had strong intellectual value.

The importance of an intellectual connection within a sexual relationship is clearly exhibited in classical Athenian literature. For my purposes, I performed a close reading of Plato’s Symposium, Plato’s Phaedrus, and Xenophon’s Symposium in order to demonstrate that elite literary sources strongly advocate for an intellectual love above all other types of love. The speeches given by the characters in these dialogues consider a pederastic relationship to be the most virtuous and intellectual of all sexual relationships, and heterosexual unions are generally treated as inferior. Ultimately, these dialogues equate patriarchal masculinity with intellectual virtue, therefore treating pederasty as the dominant sexual relationship in classical Athens.

“Frozen Music: The Synthesis of Music and Mechanical Theory in Vitruvius’ De Architectura
Daniel Walden, Oberlin College

Goethe once observed: “I call architecture frozen music. . .; the influence that flows upon us from architecture is like that from music.” Goethe’s comment likely had a specific reference to the Classical architectural forms he had encountered in Italy; but what he proposes as a metaphor about the unity of these arts was, perhaps, more literally true about the architectural and mechanical forms of the Ancient world than he may have known. This paper addresses the ways that the overlap of music and architecture was reflected in the philosophy and practice of Vitruvius, whose writings on architecture and mechanics in De Architectura were profoundly influenced by musical theories. Vitruvius posited a unique musical and architectural hybrid, based on a view that nature and technology can be in harmony, and are not opposed. This synthetic approach is founded on the philosophical premise that the periodic motion of orbiting planetary bodies, which Vitruvius posits as the main source of machinatio, is in turn commanded by musical ratios and proportions. The natural world is a great machine, one that makes music, and in that respect it is both the source for all principles of architectural design and the proof of their effectiveness. I will investigate this thesis by taking a close look at Vitruvius’ mechanical models for siege engines and the hydraulis, or water organ, while exploring the similarities between Vitruvius’ method of description of architectural principles and the theories of music developed by Aristoxenus and the Pythagorean philosophers.

“Human Sacrifice at Perusia”
Jonathan Warner, The George Washington University

In a particularly bloody episode of his Vita Divi Augusti, Suetonius describes how Octavian, after the fall of Perusia, had three hundred senators and equites “slaughtered in the manner of sacrifices on the Ides of March at an altar erected to the deified Julius” (Suetonius, Vita Divi Augusti, 15). This event has been the subject of much debate, and many historians consider the incident to be a fabrication, arguing that the sources are insufficient and that the event is too extraordinary. By comparing the sources and examining other historical and archaeological evidence, this paper will demonstrate that it is likely that some form of human sacrifice occurred following the fall of Perusia. If indeed Octavian did engage in some form of human sacrifice, this reveals an interesting contradiction in Roman society. Human sacrifice, although generally repulsive to Romans, was not entirely inconsistent with ancient traditions and Roman attitudes towards the treatment of conquered foes. During the Punic Wars, after consulting the Sibylline books, the Romans turned to human sacrifice to propitiate the gods. Other Roman traditions, such as the deditio of generals and the mysterious rex nemorensis, also show traces of human sacrifice. In the incident at Perusia, years of civil war had laid bare some of the more archaic aspects of Roman religion, resulting in the seemingly “un-Roman” practice of human sacrifice.

This entry was posted in Student Chronicle, Sunoikisis News. Bookmark the permalink.