Dr. Monica Cyrino visits Trinity to talk Biblical Films and Japanese Rome!

Dr. Monica Cyrino of the University of New Mexico – Albuquerque came to Trinity the first week of November 2017 to talk to us about her research on Biblical epics on screen and the politics and ideology of the 2012 Japanese film Thermae Romae.

Dr. Cyrino first delivered a presentation, entitled “The Original Action Heroes: Biblical Epic Film in the New Century”, about the post-2000 glut of screen productions on Biblical themes. She discussed smaller-screen productions, such as the 2015 network television miniseries A.D. The Bible Continues, alongside big-budget films released by major studios, such as the 2013 Ridley Scott-directed Exodus: Gods and Kings and Noah of the same year, directed by Noah Arronofsky (whose recent film Mother! demonstrates the director’s continued interest in engaging with Biblical material).

In her second presentation, “Tokyo on the Tiber: Screening Rome as Empire Nostalgia in Takeuchi Hideki’s Thermae Romae (2012)”, Dr. Cyrino analyzed a Japanese film based on a popular manga series. Lucian is an engineer in the city of Rome in the second century A.D. He accidentally time travels to twenty-first century Japan, where he gets ideas for improving the Roman baths of his own time from the bathing culture of Japan. Dr. Cyrino argued that this narrative of admiration for the imperialism of ancient Rome indicates a desire on the part of modern Japanese audiences to return to their country’s empire before World War II.

Thanks for visiting us and giving us so much to think about, Dr. Cyrino!


Classics Seniors Presentations!

On December 5th and 7th 2017, the senior Classics majors presented the projects that they’ve been working on this fall semester.

Dylan Ingram, who’s also a Math major, talked about a project that he’ll be pursuing further next semester about how the ancient Greek language changed over the course of time. He’s particularly interested in how the contact between the cultures of Greece, Egypt, and Rome and their languages of Greek, Coptic, demotic, and Latin during the Hellenistic period changed the Greek language.

Katilin Breen presented her project about how religion was practiced during the Roman Empire by the people living in Akko, Israel. Katelyn was inspired by her work at the summer excavations there run by our own Dr. Risser. Because Akko is situated on the coast of Israel, the people living in that region had contact with a variety of nations in the Mediterranean, including the nearby Phoenicians. When the Romans conquered Akko, they overlaid their own religious practices onto the native ones already present.

A double major in Economic and Classics, Tristan McConnell discussed his project on some contentious issues surrounding Alexander the Great. Tristan has focused particularly on the so-called “brotherhood of mankind” theory that holds that Alexander was genuinely interested in unifying the cultures that he conquered. Another area of interest for Tristan’s project is Alexander’s relationship with his Persian subjects and his adopting of Persian customs. Did Alexander do these things with “noble or selfish intentions”?

Kelcie Finn continued the Alexander thread with her research into the relationship between the Macedonian leader and Hephaistion, one of his generals and a friend from childhood. Kelcie argued that Alexander and Hephaistion had an intimate relationship from comments made by the ancient historians Arrian and Diodorus of Sicily as well as the parallel with Achilles and Patroclus in Homer’s Iliad.

A pre-med student, Sophie Akoundi presented the first half of her year-long thesis project, “An Introduction to Ancient Greek Gynecology.” She’s looking at three ancient sources that discuss women in ancient Greece: the epic poet Hesiod and the medical writers Hippocrates and Soranus.


The long reception history of Sappho was at the center of Caroline Manns’ presentation “Imagining Sappho: a Reception History.” Unsurprisingly for a project focusing on a female poet of the Greek island of Lesbos, Caroline is a Classics and Gender Studies double major. She covered the different receptions and resulting re-interpretations of Sappho by the Christian church (a prostitute), by the Italian Renaissance (an unhappy woman), German scholars in the nineteenth century (schoolmistress), and contemporary thinkers (a lesbian).

Claudia Garrote, a History and Classics double major, presented on her project, “Olive Oil Trade in the Roman Empire.” She explained how the olive oil trade between the Roman province of Hispania (modern Spain) and the Roman Empire functioned through factors like Rome’s location, the emperor  Augustus’ fiscal changes, and military demand for the oil.


A Classics major on the history track, Winston Brewer was inspired to take up his project “The Roman Gentleman.” His presentation defined the elements of a “proper” Roman man in antiquity: his family, class, his dress style (with the ever-popular toga), and the quality of virtus (“excellence”; literally “the quality of being a vir [man].”


“Understanding Roman Reverence for Greek Education During the Middle Republic” was the subject of Andy Rosenblatt’s presentation. Andy discussed how Roman education changed via contact with Greek culture when the Romans conquered Greece in the first century BCE. He argued that, despite the sometimes too-large place that ancient Rome has in our collective imaginations, it “owes a significant debt to the Greeks.”


Lydia Herndon presented the first part of her two-semester project on “Pagan Paideia and Christian Culture in the 4th century.” Paideia, the Greek word for “education,” was seen as an important tool for the construction of identity as well as for addressing the Roman emperor, and many early Christian writers and thinkers were teachers of rhetoric. As Lydia pointed out, however, some Christians were concerned about the non-Christian aspects of that system, and this tension is important for our understanding of the period.

A comparison between Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms and Virgil’s epic poem the Aeneid, Will Verdeur’s presentation was entitled, “Spears & Rifles: War in the Work of Vergil and Hemingway.” In addition to Hemingway’s statement that Vergil was one of “forebears”, Will talked about the “moral ambiguity of war” n both works, comparing the atrocities in the city of Troy in Aeneid Book 2 to war-time atrocities in the Italy of Hemingway’s novel. We’re excited to hear more about this project when it moves into its next phase in the spring, with a comparison of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls to Vergil.

Congratulations to all of the Classics seniors who presented on jobs well done!


“Education was in fact the second liberation for these people. A free society is not based just on a foundation of laws, but also on full access to the highest elements of culture and learning.”

Dr. Michele Valerie Ronnick visited Trinity to deliver the annual Moore Lecture, which is intended to support the offerings in the ancient Greek language that the department of Classics offers.

Dr. Ronnick presented the many years of research that she’s done on African-Americans who studied ancient Greek in the late nineteenth century. Among the individuals that Dr. Ronnick discussed, William Sanders Scarborough is prominent. The first African-American member of the MLA (Modern Languages Association) and the third of the American Philological Association (now the SCS, the Society for Classical Studies), Scarborough was a model classicist, presenting several times at annual conferences on subjects as traditional as the grammar of a Greek text and as boundary-pushing as the reception of the Roman playwright Seneca by the French playwright Racine.

Dr. Caldwell recorded the lecture, and it’s now available on YouTube.

Thank you, Dr. Ronnick, for visiting us and for sharing your important research on this important aspect of the discipline of classics!

“That’s one of the things that stories and theater can do for us–shape our attitudes about what’s good, what’s bad, what we want to see, what we want to avoid, what we aim at.”

 On November 13 2017, Dr. Emily Katz Anhalt of Sarah Lawrence College spoke to us about violent Greek myths and their importance for our society today. Her 2017 book Enraged: Why Violent Times Need Greek Myths (Yale University Press), Anhalt re-tells and interprets stories from Homer’s Iliad, Sophocles’ tragedy Ajax, and Euripides’ tragedy Hecuba. She argues that these stories show the heavy tolls of violent behavior and led to the creation of democratic ideas in ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks represented the destructiveness of violent behavior to remind themselves of the danger inherent in that kind of attitude. But, Anhalt claims, our current attitude is very different. She points to the violent behavior that is the norm in modern media and the arrogance displayed on social media. Ancient Greece could solve our problems!

Dr. Caldwell recorded the lecture and it’s now available on YouTube.

Thank you for visiting us and sharing your insights about ancient and modern times, Dr. Anhalt. Her book is very readable and relatable: get it at Amazon or your favorite local bookseller!

The Film & History conference is an annual gathering of scholars who present the latest in research on the intersection of film and history. For several years now, Trinity Classics professors Dr. Meredith Safran and Dr. Vincent Tomasso have attended the conference and presented their work. In addition to giving talks, for the last three years Dr. Safran has also organized the classical antiquity area, a thematically-linked set of panels that typically number around 10!

The theme for this year’s conference was “home.” Dr. Safran examined this theme in Virgil’s epic poem the Aeneid and in the science-fiction television series Battlestar Galactica. She argued that both Aeneas’ Trojans and Battlestar Galactica‘s Colonials must deal with the destruction of their homes in ways that reveal continuities between the two narratives. We’re looking forward to hearing more about Dr. Safran’s ideas when her book about the Aeneid and Battlestar Galactica is published soon!
Dr. Tomasso used the theme of “home” to examine how the 2017 film Wonder Woman erases the title character’s connections to the United States. Dr. Tomasso demonstrated how these links were prominent and explicit in the 1941 version of Wonder Woman, as well as how the film went out of its way to problematize American identity. Dr. Tomasso connected these changes to evolving ideas about the United States’ connection with classical antiquity.



Every year, publishers set up a table at the conference with books about the subject area available for purchase. This year, A Companion to Ancient Greece and Rome on Screen (Blackwell 2017) was available. Dr. Safran has written a chapter for that book, entitled, “Greek Tragedy as Theater in Screen Media,” which examines how films adapt ancient Greek tragedies, such as Julie Taymor’s 1992 film version of Sophocles’ fifth-century BCE Oedipus the King.




So long for now, Wisconsin! See you next year!

Dr. Foster’s AIA lecture “Dionysos and Vesuvius in the Villa of the Mysteries”


“Our friend is not uncovering a phallus.”

Dr. Karen Polinger Foster of Yale University and Trinity College delivered an Archaeological Institute of America lecture on October 26 207 entitled, “Dionysos and Vesuvius in the Villa of the Mysteries.”

Her subject was a fresco on a wall in a house in the ruined Roman city of Pompeii. The common interpretation of that painting was that the figures are engaging in rituals related to the mystery cult of the god Dionsysus. The triangular shape between the two female figured had been interpreted as male genitalia, with the winged female figure on the right expressing shock.

Dr. Foster, however, re-interpreted the scene. She visited Pompeii and drew the scene herself. She now argues that the triangular shape is a cone of incense rather than a phallus.

Both students and community members enjoyed Dr. Foster’s dynamic lecture, which was held on the Trinity College campus in the McCook Building.

Dr. Lenski’s AIA lecture on Roman refugees!

Yesterday the department of Classics at Trinity had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Noel Lenski of Yale University for an AIA (Archaeological Institute of America) lecture. Dr. Lenski spoke to us about the Romans’ practices, assumptions, and pitfalls of settling refugees in their empire, particularly in the later Roman Empire. He also discussed modern parallels in the recent Syrian refugee crisis. Trinity faculty and students really enjoyed your talk, Dr. Lenski. Thank you!

My personal favorite slide featured a berserk Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian:

Edith Hamilton in Connecticut

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On Wednesday May 31st 2017, the Classical Association of Connecticut (ClassConn) held an even to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the organization. This event took place in Hadlyme, CT at the Cove Cemetery, which is the final resting place of Edith Hamilton (1867-1963), an author renowned in Classics for her smashingly popular Mythology (1942), among other books about ancient Greece and Rome.

Hamilton 4Professors Risser, Safran, and Tomasso enjoyed the toast at Edith’s burial site, and then joined the sizeable ClassCon group for a short trip to the nearby Gillette Castle, where Professor Judith P. Hallett (below) of the University of Maryland spoke about Hamilton’s life and legacy.

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Congrats to the Classics Seniors!

Yesterday at the 191st commencement of Trinity College, six Classics majors graduated. We’ll miss them, but hope they stay in touch!

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OLIVIA GIBSON (B.A., Classical Studies, International Studies: Global Studies, Religious Studies)




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GRACE GILL (B.A., with honors in Classical Studies, with honors in Sociology)




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MAURA GRIFFITH (B.A., cum laude, with honors in Interdisciplinary: Archaeobiology)





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JOY KIM (B.A., summa cum laude, with honors in Classical Studies with honors in Urban Studies)





HENRY MINOT (B.A., Classical Studies)

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MATTHEW REICHELT (B.A., summa cum laude, with honors in Classical Studies, [History])





Congratulations and best wishes for the future to all!

Senior Classics Presentations 2017

Last week, the four graduating Classics seniors presented their research projects in Seabury Hall. All of them did a fantastic job and gave the audience lots to chew on, both about the ancient and modern worlds.

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Grace Gill presents her research entitled, “The Sin of Skin: Color and ‘Other’ in the Graeco-Roman World.”



Grace Gill presented “The Sin of Skin: Color and ‘Other’ in the Graeco-Roman World”, which demonstrated the inter- and multi-disciplinary focus of her studies at Trinity. Grace’s double major in Classics and Sociology shined through her presentation of the Ethiopian Christian figure “Moses the Black.”





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Joy Kim presents her senior Classics thesis, “Female Patronage of Public Space in Roman Cities.”


Next up was Joy Kim, a double major in Classics and Urban Studies, who presented “Female Patronage of Public Space in Roman Cities.” She spoke about buildings in the Roman Empire that were funded by elite women, an honor often reserved for men.






Matt Reichelt presents his senior thesis project, "Cultural Reciprocity in Hellenistic Borsippa."

Matt Reichelt presents his senior thesis project, “Cultural Reciprocity in Hellenistic Borsippa.”


Matt Reichelt presented his interdisciplinary project, “Cultural Reciprocity in Hellenistic Borsippa.” Matt discussed Borsippa, part of the Hellenistic kingdom of the Seleucids, that is now in modern-day Iraq. His focus was on the ruler’s negotiations between Greek and the native cultures.



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Maura Griffith presents her senior thesis project, “‘Species Algarum’ in Translation.”


The last presenter was Maura Griffith, whose double major in Classics and Biology gave rise to her thesis project entitled, “Species Algarum in Translation.” Her work is an English translation of part of a work written in Latin in the 19th century about different types of algae. Amazingly, this work had never been translated into English, and Trinity scientists expressed much interest in Maura’s translation!

Congratulations to all our seniors!