Author Archives: msafran

“The Pompeii of Petersborough”: Bronze-age Britain comes to life?

One of the reasons why Pompeii has so fascinated people since its discovery is the insight it offers into life as people were living it in antiquity, when sudden fiery disaster carbonized them in various states of activity and repose. Fire destroyed a similar site in eastern England, this one preserved by water, which has been excavated and dubbed “The Pompeii of Petersborough.” The New Yorker online edition is currently featuring an article by Charlotte Higgins (who has a degree in Classics from Oxford and is the Guardian’s chief culture writer) about the excavation: “Footprints, Size 10, from Britain’s Bronze Age.” Read about how Britain’s Bronze Age compares to the Greco-Roman Mediterranean’s and what is emerging in Petersborough by clicking here.


The original Brexit? Boudicca’s rebellion against the Roman Empire

Last summer when I traveled to Greece for the “New Heroes on Screen” conference in beautiful Delphi, I landed smack in the middle of the economic and political tumult that pundits soon dubbed the “Grexit”. While that change did not come to pass, lo and behold, nearly a year to the day later I will be heading back over the pond for the biennial Celtic Classics Conference in Ireland, and into another highly contentious vote on the state of the European Union: the so-called “Brexit”.  So I read with great interest historian Tom Holland’s piece in the New York Times this week, in which he draws Boudicca’s rebellion from the Roman Empire in 61 CE into conversation with the movement among Brits to withdraw from the E.U.: “When the Barbarous Brits First Quit Europe”. Read it on


We know how people died in Pompeii–but how did they live?

Scientists Hope to Learn How Pompeians Lived, Before the Big Day

OCT. 5, 2015,

POMPEII, Italy — When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., many of its victims in Pompeii were buried under mounds of pumice and ash that hardened over them like a mold, freezing them in time.

During more than two centuries of excavations, plaster casts were made of scores of those long-ago victims, making them a famous and poignant reminder of the unpredictability of death and the boundless power of nature.

But if the way Pompeii’s residents perished is well established, far less is known about how they lived. Now a team of scientists hopes to change that.

In September, an array of specialists — archaeologists, restorers, radiologists, anthropologists and others — set up a sophisticated field hospital of sorts here, complete with a computerized tomography scanner. Better known as a CT scanner, it will be used to peer beneath those opaque, improvised tombs.

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Homer in Central Park! The Public Theater’s Odyssey

New York City theatergoers were treated to a special presentation of Homer’s Odyssey through the Public Works program of The Public Theater, best known for its productions of Shakespeare in Central Park each summer. See the write-up here:

Even Homer Revs: A Biker Odyssey in the Park


Art for art’s sake is sometimes a diet too rich to maintain, yet art that sets out single-mindedly to feed a political agenda almost always fails to satisfy. The Public Theater, whose mission is, in essence, to search for ways of resolving that paradox, never succeeds better than in its Public Works program: a year-round collaboration with community groups in all five boroughs that culminates in a work of participatory theater in Central Park. This year’s production, a 100-minute musical-pageant version of The Odyssey conceived and directed by Lear deBessonet and written by Todd Almond, involves five Equity actors and about 200 nonprofessionals representing youth arts programs, domestic workers organizations, post-incarceration social-service societies, and just about any other kind of group not normally represented onstage. Did I mention the bikers?

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Spike Lee shows how to “do the right thing” via Aristophanes

Grabbed from today’s Vulture:

Chiraq Will Be a Musical Comedy, Will Definitely Feature the One and Only Yeezus


Spike Lee’s Chiraq movie will not just be a gritty look at violence in Illinois, but rather a musical comedy, Screen Daily reports. The movie will feature Kanye West, Jennifer Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Cusack, in a reimagining of the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata, by Aristophanes. In a modern twist, the movie will reportedly revolve around a woman’s quest to put the kibosh on gang violence in Chi-Town’s Englewood neighborhood; the ChicagoTribune speculates that Chiraq‘s story will probably adhere to the play’s conceit that there will be no sex till the violence ends. The movie is set to go with Amazon, but Screen Daily adds that Lee & Co. have plans to release the project in theaters. No date has been set, and there’s been no confirmation regarding Common’s and Jeremy Piven’s rumored roles. But there will definitely be music, Yeezus, and (no) sex, which may be all you need to make a deal at Cannes, right?

A humorous take on Hercules’ reputation as a “ladies man”

From this week’s New Yorker:

The Eight Serious Relationships of Hercules



In his eighteenth year, Hercules, son of Zeus, went forth from Thebes to seek fame and glory. He was welcomed by the King of Thespiae, who had heard of Hercules’ great strength, and hoped that the youthful hero would ignite the fancy of his eldest daughter, who had exclusively been dating jagoffs. And Hercules saw that Penelope was quite attractive, and, to the King’s delight, a great passion was born. But, as the months passed and the King continued to hover, Hercules started to grasp the inky depths of Penelope’s daddy issues, and at times he could not tell if he was her boyfriend or some kind of peculiar erotic proxy. And so Hercules was distressed but not altogether surprised when he returned one day from the hunt only to find that Penelope was gone—fled to Ithaca with one of the aforementioned jagoffs.


Read on at the New Yorker online…

Today on WNPR: Purging memory in ancient Rome and the modern Soviet Union

Historical Deletion and Censorship

Listen to this show at or at 90.5 FM in the Hartford area.


What happens when a ruling party flat-out removes any proof of a person’s or community’s existence?

This hour, we take a closer look at the history of deletion and censorship. We learn about the ancient Roman practice of damnatio memoriae and explore more recent attempts to erase people, places, and things from the history books.

Post your comments below, email, or tweet us @wnprcolin.


  • Eric Varner – Associate Professor in the Departments of Art History and Classics at Emory University
  • Marianna Tax Choldin – Mortenson Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; member of the Committee to Visit the Library at the University of Chicago; author of A Fence Around the Empire: Russian Censorship of Western Ideas Under the Tsars and The Red Pencil: Artists, Scholars, and Censors in the USSR
  • Michael Pilato – Globally recognized mural artist and owner of pilatomurals

Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.

A twist on “publish or perish”: Classicists on last week’s “Forever”

Now that the fall television season is upon us, new series are trying to establish their bona fides. For ABC’s “Forever”,  the past is always important: its protagonist Henry, an NYC medical examiner, is reborn every time he dies–which has been happening for several hundred years, giving him cause to reminisce about the historical development of New York City and WWII, among other topics. Last week’s episode drew our attention even further back in time, with a murder mystery centered on academic jealousy over the authorship of the scholarly paper “Last of the Latin Lovers”.

Forever Classics


Why look back to classical antiquity? Because it is revealed that the man who has been stalking Henry claims to be another immortal–who is 2000 years old!


Aristotle, Inventor of Science? Yes, says Professor Armand Leroi!

Today’s “Books” discussion on Tom Ashbrook’s radio program “On Point” features Armand Leroi, professor of evolutionary development biology at Imperial College (London). Professor Leroi explain the core assertions of the new book “The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science” and responds to the calls and online comments of listeners to the show. You can also read an excerpt from Professor Leroi’s book on the “On Point” website.