Amphora Articles

by Roberta Stewart

Editor's Note: As we look forward to the 2019 Sesquicentennial meeting, Amphora is reprinting an article by 2017 Outreach Prize winner Professor Roberta Stewart of Dartmouth College about her work in developing book discussion groups on the Homeric poems with military veterans. Professor Stewart's long-running initiative is now a major collaborative project of Dartmouth College and New Hampshire Humanities, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. This article, re-printed here without change, was originally published in Amphora in 2015. Readers can find Professor Stewart's outreach prize citation here.

For the past seven years, small groups of combat veterans in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont have been making Homer their own. This article details the particular value of these small book groups for the veteran, for the community, and for me as the academic facilitator.

The proposal for the book groups originated from the premise that literature is able to provide useful insight into life experience and, more specifically, that Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey provide valuable insight—2800 years old—into the problems of soldiers who individually and collectively experienced deep internal conflicts while deployed (Iliad) and who needed somehow to get home (Odyssey). Homer provides a salutary distancing and deflection that, I believe, allows the problems of homecoming to emerge more clearly as a historical problem of the human condition across cultures and political or social organizations: the problem of homecoming is a product of war.

The Homer book groups that I run are small (8-12 vets) but the ideas are large: life, or our daily lived experience, happens between the big events; and narratives, or figured worlds, conjure, create, and sustain lived experience (Holland and Skinner 1998); dialogic engagement with the text of Homer creates narratives, or figured worlds of return, and may help the daily experience of return and reintegration for combat veterans. Practically I bring the world of the liberal arts curriculum, namely philology as the art of reading slowly (Nietzsche), to a group outside of the liberal arts college. I teach veterans how to have a relationship with a piece of ancient literature and in the process I teach how to create a community that is founded upon a shared intellectual experience.

View full article. | Posted on Saturday, September 8, 2018 - 9:22pm by .
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off © Paramount Pictures Corp. All Rights Reserved.

by Angeline Chiu

Having marked its thirty-second anniversary this year on June 11 (“Life moves pretty fast,” as Ferris himself might say), John Hughes’ 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off celebrates the idea of breaking from the demanding everyday world to embrace a liberating temporary carnival.1 At first blush, the plot seems straightforward: on a sunny spring morning, three suburban high school students—charismatic ringleader Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara), and best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck)—play hooky to spend the day cavorting in downtown Chicago. As a paean to cheerful adolescent rebellion the film pokes fun at humorless authority figures and the constraints of school, but Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is much more than a lark or simple fantasy escapism. The film may also be profitably considered as a modern, comic reflection of prominent themes and motifs in the Bacchae of Euripides. I am not suggesting that Hughes consciously based his movie on Euripides’ tragic masterpiece of 405 BC, but I submit that by better understanding the Bacchae, we can better understand Ferris Bueller and vice versa, and that by looking at their resonance we may gain a fresh appreciation of Dionysiac celebration and the appeal of the festival idea at large.2

Characterizing Ferris:

View full article. | Posted on Monday, July 23, 2018 - 6:00am by .
Prof Macurdy working in special collections area ca. 1940 photograph

by Judith P. Hallett


On February 14, the Ohio State University Press published The Drunken Duchess of Vassar: Grace Harriet Macurdy, Pioneering Feminist Scholar, by the late Barbara F. McManus—a volume richly meriting attention and accolades by the classics community, especially those specializing in Hellenistic and women’s history. McManus’ biography serves as a fitting sesquicentennial, 150th anniversary, tribute to Macurdy, Professor of Greek at Vassar College from 1893 through 1937, who was born on September 12, 1866, particularly in its contextualization of Macurdy’s Hellenistic Queens: A Study of Woman-Power in Macedonia, Seleucid Syria and Ptolemaic Egypt, published in 1932 by Johns Hopkins University Press, and her Vassal Queens and Some Contemporary Women in the Roman Empire, also published by Hopkins in 1937. Macurdy’s research on these intriguing figures in Hellenistic and Roman history represented the first effort by a classical scholar, female or male, to recover and document the lives of individual women whose names are part of the ancient Greco-Roman historical record. These two books also marked a dramatic change from Macurdy’s earlier scholarly endeavors. After receiving her PhD from Columbia in 1903, with a dissertation on the dating of Euripides’ plays, Macurdy published widely on Greek literature, and on prehistoric influences on Greek civilization and culture. But she did not venture into the field of ancient history, nor investigate women in the classical world, for decades after that.

McManus attributes Macurdy’s new research interests in the 1920’s to a combination of factors, beginning with Macurdy’s deep involvement in the women’s suffrage movement. Macurdy had marched and campaigned for this cause, particularly in the years before the 1917 bill that gave women the right to vote in New York State.  

She maintains, too, that Macurdy’s years at Vassar had fueled her strong belief that education had the capacity to empower women, regarding her project on ancient Greco-Roman female rulers as an educational and motivational resource, especially for female students of classics and ancient history. In McManus’ own words, these books aimed to demonstrate “through reliable and unbiased research that some ancient women did play a significant role in government and politics despite the tremendous odds against them. By highlighting the achievements of some ancient women, Macurdy sought to encourage a sense of independent agency in young women faced with what seemed to be socially preordained limits.”   

View full article. | Posted on Monday, June 11, 2018 - 11:04am by .

by Karen Rosenbecker

Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men (2005) depicts the damage done to the west Texas hill country by both the violent cross-border drug trade and the ineffectual law enforcement that attempts to contain it.1 The novel’s exploration of what happens to a society that is unable to police itself shares that same central theme with Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy (Agamemnon, Choephoroe, Eumenides). The better-known parallel between McCarthy’s works and ancient literature is between his novels and the Bible, a comparison encouraged by certain titles (Child of God, Cities of the Plain), and by his focus on the collapse of society and the accompanying tectonic shifts in moral order.2 But much in McCarthy’s writing also welcomes a comparison with Greek tragedy, a genre that shares McCarthy’s interest in juxtaposing the limits of human understanding with the human desire to pursue knowledge despite the cost.3 In particular, No Country for Old Men and the Oresteia resonate with each other in terms of literal events, which depict characters struggling to resolve a situation that resists resolution, and in terms of the sweeping implications of those failures. Although what lands Aeschylus’ Orestes and McCarthy’s Llewelyn Moss in their life-threatening predicaments is quite different, the consequences of those actions betoken a breakdown of both societies.4 As a result of the failure of traditional rituals of justice in west Texas and in Argos, Anton Chigurh and the Furies—supernatural agents of their respective worlds—are summoned to apprehend the guilty and to restore order. But it is at this point, when the fate of both communities hangs in the balance, that McCarthy and Aeschylus unfold the future of ancient Greece and of modern America in a contrapuntal manner: one of these communities, guided by the wisdom of men and godly authority, will redeem itself and step into an age of reason and order; the other will slip into the abyss. What accounts for this difference rests on each community’s ability to recognize the divine avengers and to react accordingly, but the dissimilar trajectories of each world also reflect another conceptual parallel between No Country for Old Men and the Oresteia, namely that the quality of contemporary conditions rests upon that of the past.

View full article. | Posted on Friday, May 25, 2018 - 8:49pm by .

by  Erich Gruen

What put me on the path to Classics? No single event, no flash of lightning, no sudden illumination. Nor was it a gradual move, an increasing affection for a subject that slowly grew on me as I matured, a route that became more distinct and compelling as years passed. It is easy to construct such a smooth course toward an inevitable outcome in retrospect. But that is not how it happened.

Like so many others, I was exposed as a child to the myths and legends of ancient gods and heroes. But the pretty stories, however entertaining and diverting, had no lasting effect. At least not consciously (I can’t speak for the sub-conscious). I did study Latin for six years in Middle School (we called it junior high in those days) and High School - - but not for any admirable reason. Taking Latin meant that one could appear to be among the intellectual elite at school, and superior to the hoi polloi. Hardly a laudable motive, and certainly not one that pointed to a future career. I did enjoy the good fortune (not that I welcomed it then) of having a stern and rigorous teacher who put students thoroughly through their paces- - and also thoroughly terrified them. Nothing was more crushing than to have Mrs. Cantrell say “Erich, will you translate this passage,” and then, after offering some inadequate rendition, to hear her say, “Mary, would you translate that same passage.” I managed to survive with some lasting scars, but never dreamed that I would look at another Latin text again.

When I entered Columbia University as an undergraduate, I had no clear academic direction. But I had definitely come to the right place. Columbia had just instituted a new, experimental system for undergraduates. They eliminated the requirement of declaring a major.  The idea was to present a smorgasbord of offerings and let students pick and choose whatever they liked. (There was, to be sure, a common core in the first two years, in which Columbia was a pioneer and which, in essence, remains to this day. And a “breadth requirement.” But there was no need to specialize). The only limitation imposed was that of a certain number of advanced courses in whatever areas the student selected - - to assure that one did not take only elementary courses in every discipline for four years. Those were what some administrator brilliantly termed “maturity credits.” In any case, it was tailor-made for someone like me who had no desire to specialize and who reveled in taking courses all over the map. Or not altogether all over the map. I gave science and math a wide berth. But I enrolled in whatever would fit on the program in History, English, Classics, Philosophy, Political Science, and Art History. I should note in passing that, after I graduated, Columbia terminated that experiment. Whether my exploitation of the system helped to speed that decision I cannot say.

View full article. | Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 10:10pm by .

by Dr. Ellen Bauerle

After five years seeing the ebb and flow of classical practitioners’ thoughts about outreach, it’s time for me to step down as editor of Amphora.  I have very much enjoyed working with the many members of the Amphora editorial board – I’ve made some good new friends, learned about a lot of things going on in the international ferment we call classical studies – and made new discoveries about current pedagogical trends.  In the last five years Amphora  has moved from an all-print publication format, then to print + website, and now to website-only:  I am sure there will be additional developments upcoming as Amphora continues to change and adapt.

It’s hard to say goodbye, but I am delighted to announce that Dr. Wells Hansen, who has been my efficient and hard-working assistant editor, is taking over as editor of Amphora, effective with the next issue.  Wells and I are together putting the current issue to bed, but as incoming editor he will be taking over management of queries and peer review for prospective authors, guidance of the general direction of the publication, interface with several new SCS committees, and other tasks that fall to the publication’s editor particularly as the Society’s web page develops and changes.  The SCS has now made available dedicated addresses for the Amphora editors, meaning you can reach Wells at

I would very much like to thank those who have made the recent years’ issues of Amphora possible – the authors, the unsung anonymous referees of articles, the many members of the editorial board, and last but not least my immediate past predecessor Davina McClain, Mary-Kay Gamel as Vice President for Outreach, Adam Blistein as Executive Director of the APA/SCS, and specially helpful board members Ward Briggs and Judith Hallett, all of whom collectively provided information on APA practices, requirements, the history and goals of relevant committees, and many of the big-picture questions that an outreach program faces.  I am indebted to all of them, and I look for a bright future for Amphora in Wells’ hands.

View full article. | Posted on Friday, February 2, 2018 - 9:26pm by .

by Ronnie Ancona

Since my original article (see below) about Carl Sesar’s (then out of print) Catullus, many people have asked me whether the book is back in print. The very good news is that it has indeed been available, with some revisions, from Sesar’s own One Shot Press since 2013. He would be happy to answer questions about this publication via email ( or snail mail (Carl Sesar, One Shot Press, 7 Bardwell St., Florence, MA 01062).


by Ronnie Ancona

In 1974, Selected Poems of Catullus, a translation by Carl Sesar unique for its ability to capture Catullus’ poetic voice in colloquial English, was published by Mason & Lipscomb, New York; it had Latin text on one side and English on the facing page, with line drawings by Arlene Dubanevich and an Afterword by David Konstan. Then suddenly the publisher went out of business. The book did not exactly disappear (it can be found in public libraries and many college and university libraries), but, unfortunately, it has been “lost” to much of the general public, as well as to many, if not most, professional classicists. Although it appeared to extremely positive critical acclaim in the popular press and among distinguished writers and translators, it was never reviewed in a classics journal, to the best of my knowledge. I hope that by calling attention to this half-forgotten translation, both classicists and the reading public, more generally, will return to reading it and a press will consider its republication.

View full article. | Posted on Saturday, December 23, 2017 - 2:27am by .

If you’re new to academic conferences, or to the joint annual meeting of the SCS/AIA, you may be thinking that the Exhibit Hall is mostly for buying books. And if you’re at the start of your career and/or on a modest budget, you may think that there’s nothing for you in the Exhibit Hall as a result.  Au contraire!  Here’s a short list of things you can do there—completely aside from buying books—that can be beneficial to your career, fun, interesting, worthwhile, and generally good things to do. The Exhibit Hall is generally open about nine hours a day for the two full days of the conference, plus a half day on either side, so there’s plenty of time to try these in small bits.  As a press exhibitor myself (full disclosure) I spend many hours in the hall, so I have a chance to see the variety of exhibitors who transport their materials or goods or information to the conference, often from international origins, in hopes they’ll have an opportunity to talk with you.

One set of possible activities relates to developing your own publications, whether long or short.  Odds are you’ll need to write at least one book in your career, plus a number of articles and book reviews. You may find yourself editing a volume of essays written by others, or involved in an honorary volume (maybe a festschrift, or a volume honoring a campus event, or perhaps documenting a campus collection of antiquities).  Examining the journal and book offerings in the Exhibit Hall at this or other academic conferences is a real step forward in terms of developing your own scholarship in those different categories.

View full article. | Posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - 10:49am by .
Medieval Imagery

by Ellen Bauerle

This spring I was fortunate to hear an interesting panel discussion—stand-up-and-take-notice interesting—at the Medieval Academy of America’s annual meeting, hosted by Notre Dame University. The panelists’ observations seemed to me relevant to the SCS both as demonstrating additional kinds of outreach but more importantly as discussing the peculiar period higher education now finds itself in, and what might be done about that at every level, from junior scholar to dean.

View full article. | Posted on Saturday, August 8, 2015 - 12:01pm by .

by David Potter

On May 2, 2015, two men boxed for thirty-six minutes, and each made an enormous amount of money, splitting a record purse of $300 million. Fans may not have seen the greatest fight of all time, or anything close to it, but they did get to boo the winner, Floyd Mayweather, when he strutted around the ring after he was awarded the unanimous decision. The political ambitions of the loser, Manny Pacquiao, do not seem to have been damaged by his defeat. There are already rumors of a rematch. Tiberius Caesar would have been appalled.

On May 27, 2015, a series of indictments was issued against leaders of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) for a wide range of corrupt activities in connection with the world’s most widely viewed sporting event, the World Cup. The modern notion that major sports organizations should claim to be self-policing and effectively free of governmental oversight—a privilege also asserted by, for instance, professional sports leagues in the United States and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)—descends from the early days of these institutions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Claudius Caesar would have been astounded.

Tiberius Caesar rarely gets much credit for innovative thought, yet he is the first person who sought to restrain runaway spending on sport. He set limits on the cost of public spectacle—gladiatorial combat to be specific—and faced the question of what might be reasonable public expenditure on sports. Claudius likewise gets little credit for creativity, but it seems to have been in his reign that imperial regulation of independent athletic associations became the order of the day. Although dossiers of imperial letters that have come down to us on papyrus refer to earlier grants of privileges from the Augustan era, the dossiers begin with a letter of Claudius.

The half-century before Tiberius took the throne as sole emperor in 14 CE was a period of extraordinary experimentation in public entertainment. Mime, with male and female performers, was becoming an increasingly important genre; women had started appearing as gladiators; new mythological dance routines—pantomime—had become amazingly popular; professional Greek athletics were increasingly interesting to Roman audiences; and there were now occasional aquatic spectacles. In summing up the events connected with the opening of Rome’s first permanent theater in 55 BCE, Cicero remarked that everything Pompey had to offer, people had seen before (Ad fam. 7.1). This may have been something of an exaggeration—an elephant massacre on the last day had been as novel as it was ill-advised—but the point remained that the aspiring autocrat needed to show some originality. Augustus had been determined not to make Pompey’s mistake.

View full article. | Posted on Saturday, August 8, 2015 - 11:58am by .


About Amphora

Amphora is a peer-reviewed publication of the Society for Classical Studies that aims to convey the excitement of classical studies to a broad readership by offering accessible articles written by scholars and experts on topics of classical interest that include culture; classical tradition and reception in the arts; and reviews of current books, films, and web sites. Sponsored by the Committee on Communications and Outreach and supported by the SCS, Amphora is intended for anyone with a strong interest in or enthusiasm for the classical world.

Nota Bene

As of 2018 Amphora has been discontinued as a publication of the Society for Classical Studies. We thank the authors, editors, and SCS members whose tireless work made this publication possible.

PDFs for previous issues of Amphora are linked above. Any further questions about this publication should be directed toward

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