Live Webcast: Undergraduate Research Symposium

Join us on Saturday, April 12 for a live webcast of the Sunoikisis Undergraduate Research Symposium. The stream will be available at rtsp://, viewable with VLC Media Player or Quicktime. To connect via VLC, go to File > Open Network and paste the link into the URL field. For Quicktime, go to File > Open URL and paste in the link.

To participate in the discussions, comment on this post, contact us, or tweet us @Sunoikisis!

Session 1, 9:00-10:30am (EDT)

“Dialect at Himera: An Evaluation of Material and Literary Evidence”
Dan Plekhov, Dickinson College
Faculty mentor: Marc Mastrangelo

“Acrostic Authority in Germanicus’ Phaenomena
Max Fabiszewski, University of St. Andrews
Faculty mentor: Emma Gee

“Looking to One Another: Common Knowledge and ‘Alignment’ in the Navy of Democratic Athens”
Mills McArthur, Rhodes College
Faculty mentor: Joe Jansen

“Morphing Monsters: The Evolution of Anguipede Giants”
Rachael Dodd, Carleton College
Faculty mentor: Daniel Moore

Session 2, 11:00am-12:30pm (EDT)

“The Sorcerer Dionysus: Ancient Roots, a Foreign Image, Marginalized Followers, and the Divine Magician”
Kaia Lind, Concordia College
Faculty mentor: Heather Gruber

“Put a Cork in It: Martial and the Metaphor of Wine for Writing”
Katlyn Fleming, Sweet Briar College
Faculty mentor: Bryce Walker

“Societal Attitudes Toward Metics through the Lens of Aeschylus’ Suppliants and Euripides’ Children of Heracles
Victoria Roeck, University of Notre Dame
Faculty mentor: Christopher Baron

“Wily Socrates: How Seriously Should We Take The Arguments of Hippias Minor?”
Michael Ziegler, University of Virginia
Faculty mentor: Dan Devereux


Dialect at Himera: An Evaluation of Material and Literary Evidence

This paper focuses on the Sicilian city of Himera and the account Thucydides provides about it concerning its foundation and development. Specifically, Thucydides’ comment regarding the “mixed-dialect” of Himera and its Chalcidian nomima is addressed in the context of Hellenic language and ethnicity during the Archaic period. Through the use of epigraphic and numismatic evidence, as well as the language of Stesichorus, I examine the possible dialectic markers of ethnic identification at Himera and make observations regarding their significance. The purpose of doing so is to both test the validity of Thucydides’ account, as well as evaluate the ways in which nomima mediates ethnic divisions in multi-ethnic cities. Through the examination of the evidence I argue that Thucydides’ claim concerning the Chalcidian nomima of the city is supported, but there is little evidence to support his claim of a mixed-dialect at Himera. This conclusion does not, however, prove the absence of a mixed-dialect at Himera. Rather, it stresses the strength of nomima in defining the ethnic designation of a multi-ethnic city, as seen through material and literary evidence.

Acrostic Authority in Germanicus’ Phaenomena

Aratus’ Phaenomena, an Ancient Greek astronomical poem of the 3rd century B.C., was popular in antiquity for its literary appeal rather than its cosmological substance. Aratus literally records his readings of the universe in his work, and acrostics, patterns formed by letters, are an important example of this interpretative process. William Levitan’s engaging 1976 article on Aratean wordplay established a tradition of excellent scholarship on acrostics in antiquity, but scholars still overlook one acrostic master, Germanicus Caesar (15/16 B.C.–19 A.D.). Third to adapt Aratus to Latin verse after Varro of Atax and Cicero in the 1st century B.C., Germanicus proves to be both a corrector and unrivalled re-interpreter of Aratus in his own Phaenomena. This paper examines heretofore unobserved acrostics in Germanicus’ Phaenomena, furthering Latin acrostic, didactic, and cosmological scholarship by connecting Homeric, Hellenistic, and Virgilian wordplay traditions. I suggest that Germanicus employs acrostics as sophisticated, didactic devices to develop his interest in catasterism, the placement of objects in the sky, and to complement his retelling of myth. For example, I utilize three acrostics to reevaluate Germanicus’ Iustitia-Virgo myth, an account of Justice’s origin in the world, and another to respond to Levitan’s discussion of near miss wordplay. Further, this paper serves to elucidate Germanicus’ literary talent and argue that he is a more sophisticated author than scholarship currently concedes. My work supplements a vanguard of current interest in the field of acrostic research, but differs significantly from the work of scholars like Gregor Damschen and Katharina Volk.

Coordination and “Alignment” in the Navy of Democratic Athens

“Whenever you have formed some desire, but have then looked to one another, each refusing to do anything himself but expecting his neighbor to act, you have never yet accomplished anything.” Demosthenes, uttering these words to the Athenian assembly in a speech on naval finance (14.15), identifies a core challenge to the operation of Athens’ fleet: the problem of coordinated action within a democratic setting. In examining this problem, I apply the concept of “alignment” from Josiah Ober’s recent work, Democracy and Knowledge. Ober defines alignment as a process “enabling people who prefer similar outcomes to coordinate their actions by reference to shared values and a shared body of common knowledge” (27). The problem solved by alignment, Ober writes, is “how a decentralized participatory democracy could have coordinated its many working parts in the absence of formal command and control and without elaborate protocols” (169). The fleet of Athens certainly comprised many working parts, as well as divergent class interests: wealthy trierarchs funded ships while the metics, foreign mercenaries, and lower-class citizens making up the body of rowers received pay for their services. Despite the potential for conflict inherent in such a mélange – as well as catastrophic naval losses like the Sicilian expedition – democratic Athens hardly swayed from its commitment to naval power, constructing more trireme hulls in the 4th century than it attained even during its 5th century empire. Thus, I seek an explanation for these circumstances using Ober’s idea of alignment as an interpretive framework.

Morphing Monsters: The Evolution of Anguipede Giants

During the Hellenistic period the dominant artistic representations of the giants in the gigantomacy changed abruptly from humanoid to anguipede (snake-legged). One famous example is the Great Altar at Peragamon, built in the 2nd century BCE. This innovative representation seems at odds with Hesiod’s much earlier description of the giants in his Theogany from the 8th century BCE. The only elements he describes are their gleaming armor and long spears.

It is not until the 2nd century CE, during the Roman period that Pseudo-Apollodorus in his Bibliotheca finally characterizes the giants as having serpents in place of legs. Though Pausanias, who was writing his Descriptions of Greece at the same time, denies the existence of anguipede giants, it is clear that snake-legged giants became the norm throughout Roman monumental architecture and funerary decorations.

Clearly the trend of characterizing the giants as anguipedes began in art far before its appearance in literature. But what was the catalyst for this spontaneous evolution? L. R. Farnell mentions the change from humanoid Giants of the archaic epic tradition and the switch to snake-legged Giants, but says “at what time and through what means the altered representation became dominant is a question which may be passed by.” This is the exact question this paper seeks to answer. By identifying where and when anguipede giants appear in sculptural reliefs, this paper seeks to determine what cultural influences, either within the classical world or externally, influenced the evolution of anguipede giants.

The Sorcerer Dionysus: Ancient Roots, a Foreign Image, Marginalized Followers, and the Divine Magician

Dionysus, in all of his manifestations, is different from any other Olympian god. Taken all together, his unique characteristics add up to a consistent association with sorcery and magic. Specific factors contributing to his association with magic are: the long record of his written name in Greek history, his regular representation as a traveler from the East, the particulars of his cult basis, and his appeal to a marginalized group of followers. He was a god with the mask of a magician.

Contrary to E.R. Dodd’s conventional theory that Dionysus was imported from Asia Minor, he is, like Circe and Medea of literature, tied directly to Minoan religion. In the Orphic Hymns Dionysus is the iteration of the Minoan Zagreus, the consort of the earth goddess. In the Bacchae, Dionysus, disguised as a traveler, is mistaken for Eastern magician. He also in this play, as well as in many other of his literary characterizations, repeatedly tricks mortal by turning them into animals, magically slipping his bonds.

As Dionysus was historically, magic was associated with ancient roots, Eastern provenance, and social marginalization. A god perceived as so dangerous he could never even be kept in the city, he was specially brought in for his festival revelries which tore apart social hierarchy. Other such gods were driven from the city, but Dionysus was a temporary danger, brought in to destroy the hierarchies, and taken back out to restore them. The ancient, travelling, lord of madness was a sorcerer in all but name.

Put a Cork in It: Martial and the Metaphor of Wine for Writing

For Hellenistic poets, the symposium was a perfect environment for the spontaneous, verbal composition of uninhibited poetry that otherwise would not have been proper for them to write. This association of wine and writing allowed the development of a metaphor in which the drinking of wine is equivalent to writing within a genre of epigram that can be described as “uninhibited”, including both invective and love poetry. Thus we find a spectrum of wine-drinkers like Asclepiades (AP 12.50), mixed wine-drinkers like Posidippus (AP 12.126), and water-drinkers like Callimachus (12.51). The content of wine-inspired poetry is generally not socially acceptable anywhere except in written form, while the water-inspired poetry is more rooted in reality, tradition, and sincerity. This metaphor is adopted by Roman poets such as Horace and Catullus, who describe themselves as wine-inspired (Catullus 27 and 13, Horace’s Ode 1.20). Catullus especially scorns water-drinkers and even mixed wine-drinkers. While we can assume that Martial considers himself a wine-drinker by the content of his poetry and his close literary relationship with Catullus, he also draws inspiration from water (4.18). In fact, the only thing he seems to scorn is the mixing of wine (1.18). Therefore, it is apparent that Martial rejects the middle of the spectrum, and instead chooses to embrace both extremes in his corpus, within which he is either incredibly sarcastic or wholly sincere. Through his use of metaphor, Martial declares epigram to be a genre of extremes in a way that his predecessors did not.

Societal Attitudes Toward Metics through the Lens of Aeschylus’ Suppliants and Euripides’ Children of Heracles

In this paper, I investigate societal attitudes toward metics (non-citizen resident aliens) in fifth-century B.C.E. Athens through the lens of Aeschylus’s Suppliants and Euripides’ Children of Heracles. The former, written around 461 B.C.E., illustrates that Athenians were suspicious of foreigners in their city and considered themselves superior, even though most metics then shared the same ethnic background as their citizen counterparts. I argue that the latter, written around the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, shows a slight positive shift in Athenian attitudes toward metics, most likely as a result of Athenians’ reliance on their metics to protect the city, thus setting aside their xenophobic beliefs for their own safety. To make this conclusion, I examine the poets’ use of terms related to foreigners and metics to elucidate the connotations these terms would have had for their audience and the societal attitudes reflected in them.

Wily Socrates: How Seriously Should We Take The Arguments of Hippias Minor?

How seriously should we take the problematic conclusions of Socrates in the Hippias Minor, particularly the claim that only the just man will do injustice voluntarily? If we view the dialogue broadly as an attempt by Socrates to beat Hippias at his own game of speechmaking in front of an audience rather than an attempt to gain greater intellectual understanding, then we can begin to doubt Socrates’ commitment to his own arguments. Of the dialogue’s three main arguments, two possess serious flaws, while the third, for the conclusion that the just man is the one who does injustice voluntarily, possesses a limited degree of plausibility. Taking into account the generally deficient quality of the arguments, Socrates’ purpose in engaging Hippias in dialogue can be regarded as being to provide his audience of young men interested in philosophy with a chance to diagnose faulty reasoning and to shame Hippias in front of an audience. A likely motive Socrates has for this shaming is to make Hippias aware of his own ignorance, a motive that Thomas Brickhouse and Nicholas Smith, in their book Socratic Moral Psychology, suggest induces Socrates to shame other interlocutors. This motive becomes particularly relevant when the frustration of Hippias in Hippias Minor is contrasted with his apparent, blissful obliviousness of his own ignorance in Hippias Major. While the evidence indicates that Socrates’ conclusions need not be taken seriously, this does not preclude the dialogue from serving as a pedagogical exercise in diagnosing poor argumentation for Plato’s literary audience.

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