Faculty Books

From Villain to Hero cover

Best known for his adventures during his homeward journey as narrated in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus remained a major figure and a source of inspiration in later literature, from Greek tragedy to Dante’s Inferno to Joyce’s Ulysses. Less commonly known, but equally interesting, are Odysseus’ “wanderings” in ancient philosophy: Odysseus becomes a model of wisdom for Socrates and his followers, Cynics and Stoics, as well as for later Platonic thinkers. From Villain to Hero: Odysseus in Ancient Thought follows these wanderings in the world of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, retracing the steps that led the cunning hero of Homeric epic and the villain of Attic tragedy to become a paradigm of the wise man.

From Villain to Hero explores the reception of Odysseus in philosophy, a subject that so far has been treated only in tangential or limited ways. Diverging from previous studies, Montiglio outlines the philosophers’ Odysseus across the spectrum, from the Socratics to the Middle Platonists. By the early centuries CE, Odysseus’ credentials as a wise man are firmly established, and the start of Odysseus’ rehabilitation by philosophers challenges current perceptions of him as a villain. More than merely a study in ancient philosophy, From Villain to Hero seeks to understand the articulations between philosophical readings of Odysseus and nonphilosophical ones, with an eye to the larger cultural contexts of both. While this book is the work of a classicist, it will also be of interest to students of philosophy, comparative literature, and reception studies.


The Matter of the Page

Ancient and medieval literary texts often call attention to their existence as physical objects. Shane Butler helps us to understand why. Arguing that writing has always been as much a material struggle as an intellectual one, The Matter of the Page offers timely lessons for the digital age about how creativity works and why literature moves us.

Butler begins with some considerations about the materiality of the literary text, both as a process (the draft) and a product (the book), and he traces the curious history of “the page” from scroll to manuscript codex to printed book and beyond. He then offers a series of unforgettable portraits of authors at work: Thucydides struggling to describe his own diseased body; Vergil ready to burn an epic poem he could not finish; Lucretius wrestling with words even as he fights the madness that will drive him to suicide; Cicero mesmerized by the thought of erasing his entire career; Seneca plumbing the depths of the soul in the wax of his tablets; and Dhuoda, who sees the book she writes as a door, a tunnel, a womb. Butler reveals how the work of writing transformed each of these authors into his or her own first reader, and he explains what this metamorphosis teaches us about how we too should read.


The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism Cover

This volume offers a comprehensive survey of the main periods, schools, and individual proponents of scepticism in the ancient Greek and Roman world. The contributors examine the major developments chronologically and historically, ranging from the early antecedents of scepticism to the Pyrrhonist tradition. They address the central philosophical and interpretive problems surrounding the sceptics’ ideas on subjects including belief, action, and ethics. Finally, they explore the effects which these forms of scepticism had beyond the ancient period, and the ways in which ancient scepticism differs from scepticism as it has been understood since Descartes. The volume will serve as an accessible and wide-ranging introduction to the subject for non-specialists, while also offering considerable depth and detail for more advanced readers.


Cover of Angelo Poliziano's Lamia

In 1492, Angelo Poliziano published his Lamia, a praelectio, or opening oration to a course he would teach that academic year on Aristotle’s Prior Analytics at the Florentine university. Having heard murmurings that he was not philosopher enough to teach the Aristotelian text, Poliziano strikes back, offering in effect a fable-tinted history of philosophy. More than a repudiation of local gossip, the text represents a rethinking of the mission of philosophy. This volume offers the first English translation, an edition of the Latin text, and four studies that set this rich example of humanist Latin writing in context.


Silence in the Land of Logos cover

In ancient Greece, the spoken word connoted power, whether in the free speech accorded to citizens or in the voice of the poet, whose song was thought to know no earthly bounds. But how did silence fit into the mental framework of a society that valued speech so highly? Here Silvia Montiglio provides the first comprehensive investigation into silence as a distinctive and meaningful phenomenon in archaic and classical Greece. Arguing that the notion of silence is not a universal given but is rather situated in a complex network of associations and values, Montiglio seeks to establish general principles for understanding silence through analyses of cultural practices, including religion, literature, and law.

Unlike the silence of a Christian before an ineffable God, which signifies the uselessness of words, silence in Greek religion paradoxically expresses the power of logos—for example, during prayer and sacrifice, it serves as a shield against words that could offend the gods. Montiglio goes on to explore silence in the world of the epic hero, where words are equated with action and their absence signals paralysis or tension in power relationships. Her other examples include oratory, a practice in which citizens must balance their words with silence in very complex ways in order to show that they do not abuse their right to speak. Inquiries into lyric poetry, drama, medical writings, and historiography round out this unprecedented study, revealing silence as a force in its own right.


Cover of An Archaeology of Representations

How can we read the intricacies of figural representations painted on pottery? Such a hermeneutic progress depends on our broader understanding of ancient Greek visual signs and languages, as well as on the methodological strategies we construct and apply to our analyses. Exploring diverse methodologies, adopted or advanced in older as well as in more recent interdisciplinary research on ancient Greek vases, An Archaeology of Representations: Ancient Greek Vase-Painting and Contemporary Methodologies offers original approaches to vase-paintings of archaic and classical Greece, with an emphasis on the semiotics of ancient modes of representation. Written by an international group of eminent scholars, the essays in this book address methodological questions and propose wide-ranging interpretive arguments for the study of a large number of images from the rich and complex corpus of ancient Greek vase-painting.


Worshiping Women cover

This exhibition catalogue, divided into three main sections, is an essential collection of images and descriptions of each of the 155 artifacts of the exhibition, containing also scrutinizing essays on the important role women played in Classical Athens. The first section, “Goddesses and Heroines”, introduces the principal female deities of Athens and Attica, in whose cults and festivals women were most actively engaged: Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, and Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The second section, “Women and Ritual,” explores the practice of ritual acts such as dances, libations, sacrifices, processions and festivals in which women were active in classical antiquity. Here the critical role of the priestess comes to light, specifically in her function as key-bearer for the temples of the gods. The final section, “Women and the Cycle of Life,” looks at how religious rituals defined moments of transition. This section focuses on nuptial rites and wedding banquets but also death, another occasion on which Athenian women took on major responsibilities, such as preparing the deceased for burial and tending the graves of family members. Contributors include, in addition to the editors, Professor Mary Lefkowitz of Wellesley College; Professor Olga Palagia of the University of Athens; Dr. Angelos Delivorrias, director of the Benaki Museum; Professor Michalis Tiverios of the Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki; Professor Joan Breton Connelly of New York University; Professor Jenifer Neils of Case Western Reserve University; and Professor John Oakley of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, among others.


The Cambridge Companion to Archaic Greece cover

The Cambridge Companion to Archaic Greece provides a wide-ranging synthesis of history, society, and culture during the formative period of Ancient Greece, from the Age of Homer in the late eighth century to the Persian Wars of 490–480 B.C. In 10 clearly written and succinct chapters, leading scholars from around the English-speaking world treat all aspects of the civilization of Archaic Greece, from social, political, and military history to early achievements in poetry, philosophy, and the visual arts. Archaic Greece was an age of experimentation and intellectual ferment that laid the foundations for much of Western thought and culture. Individual Greek city-states rose to great power and wealth, and after a long period of isolation, many cities sent out colonies that spread Hellenism to all corners of the Mediterranean world. This Companion offers a vivid and fully documented account of this critical stage in the history of the West.


Sextus Empiricus Cover

By far the most detailed surviving examination by any ancient Greek sceptic of epistemology and logic, this work critically reviews the pretensions of non-sceptical philosophers, to have discovered methods for determining the truth, either through direct observation or by inference from the observed to the unobserved. A fine example of the Pyrrhonist sceptical method at work, it also provides extensive information about the ideas of other Greek thinkers, which in many instances, are poorly preserved in other sources.


Dining Posture in Ancient Rome cover

What was really going on at Roman banquets? In this lively new book, veteran Romanist Matthew Roller looks at a little-explored feature of Roman culture: dining posture. In ancient Rome, where dining was an indicator of social position as well as an extended social occasion, dining posture offered a telling window into the day-to-day lives of the city’s inhabitants.

This book investigates the meaning and importance of the three principal dining postures–reclining, sitting, and standing–in the period 200 B.C.-200 A.D. It explores the social values and distinctions associated with each of the postures and with the diners who assumed them. Roller shows that dining posture was entangled with a variety of pressing social issues, such as gender roles and relations, sexual values, rites of passage, and distinctions among the slave, freed, and freeborn conditions.

Timely in light of the recent upsurge of interest in Roman dining, this book is equally concerned with the history of the body and of bodily practices in social contexts. Roller gathers evidence for these practices and their associated values not only from elite literary texts, but also from subelite visual representations–specifically, funerary monuments from the city of Rome and wall paintings of dining scenes from Pompeii.

Engagingly written, Dining Posture in Ancient Rome will appeal not only to the classics scholar, but also to anyone interested in how life was lived in the Eternal City.