Classics & Chemistry major Chris Puntasecca ’19 to attend Stanford Medical School as a Knight-Hennessey Scholar

Seizing the opportunity for a semester in Rome

By Emma Powell ’20

Emma takes in a view of the Roman Forum.

“Fortes fortuna iuvat,” which translates to “Fortune favors the brave,” is the famous line from Pliny the Younger’s letter describing the events of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The sentiment of that line is the foundation on which, at least recently, I have tried to navigate my life. In deciding to study away in Washington, D.C. in the fall semester and abroad in Rome, Italy, this semester, I was extremely hesitant. In all honesty, I had a crippling fear of missing out on my beloved professors, classes, friends, and everything else that comes with my amazing life at Holy Cross. In the end, I decided to take advantage of both experiences, and I could not be happier with my decision. How could anyone regret living in Rome?

This semester I am studying at Temple University’s Rome campus. Every morning, I walk from my apartment located directly next to the Vatican, over the Tiber River to school. When I walk across the Tiber I think about the importance it played in Ancient Rome. The river played an important role in trade and the founding story of Rome, but also reminds us that nature cannot be controlled, as it often flooded. At the school my courses include Greek, Latin, Italian, Museum History, and of course Roman History.

My coursework comes alive when I walk around Rome. When I learn about the set up of the Roman Forum, I can actually walk over and retrace the steps of Triumphal Procession. When we read Ovid’s “Apollo and Daphne” passage in the Metamorphoses, I can go to the Villa Borghese and look at Bernini’s neo-classical sculpture inspired by the passage. Everyday, I am living in the physical world of what I study in my Classics classes at Holy Cross.

Emma at Aqueduct Park.

By far, my favorite spot in Rome is the Aqueduct Park. Located at the end of the metro, this park holds remains of the Aqua Felix and the Aqua Claudia. With a mix of ancient and more modern aqueducts, this park reminds me of the power of time. I like to sit in the park with a group of my friends, picnic, and watch the sunset go down behind the aqueduct. It is overwhelming and comforting all at once. These conflicting ideas of nature vs. man, permanence vs. fleetingness overcome me. This park and my experience in Rome remind me to be brave. Living in Rome has allowed me the courage to seize every opportunity to travel, to learn, and to experience new things. Classics in general reminds me of my humanity and Rome has only solidified this.

Fortune favors the brave, but bravery does not have to be a grand heroic gesture. Bravery can simply be taking a chance. I am beyond grateful I took a chance on going abroad.

Student-Faculty Discussion on the Classics and Job Interviews

On Saturday, February 23, Classics students and Prof. Tom Martin of the Classics Department gathered for a discussion titled “Classics and Job Interviews: Success Strategies.” Hui Li ’21 wrote a feature about the event for the student newspaper The Spire. Click here for the story, as well as photographs from the event.

Manuscripts Club hosts first-ever Hack-A-Thon for students around the state

By Hui Li ’21

On Saturday, February 24, members of the Holy Cross Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club (HC MID) hosted the first-ever Manuscript Hack-A-Thon, where they worked with younger students from schools around the state to create a digital version of a 9th-century manuscript.

Over 50 high-school students from all levels of experience of Latin arrived at Hogan 3 with their teachers. The students and teachers split into 12 groups after signing in on Hogan 4. MID members helped configure their computers in time for a presentation by faculty advisor Professor Neel Smith.

MID faculty advisor Professor Neel Smith addressing students and teachers at the Hack-A-Thon.

After the introductory remarks and an overview of the day’s schedule, groups headed back to their rooms on Hogan 4 to make paleographic observations of online images of the Bern Physiologus, a medieval text with stories and pictures of various animals. They practiced reading the hand and zoomed in on specific words and letters, transcribing them digitally onto their computers and validating their work in XML.

The groups met again about creating a new edition of the manuscript. After lunch, they shared any questions and formatting problems that came up in their work. From there, they moved on to making final validations, verifications, and edits for a collaborative compilation at the end of the event.

In his closing statement at the end of the Hack-A-Thon, Professor Smith thanked all the MID volunteers, visiting teachers, and participating high school students for their observations of and new notes on the manuscript. He said to the audience, “You’ve made a contribution to the world of scholarship. What you’ve created is a permanent resource that people are going to be able to build on and work with.”

Hannah Nguyen ‘19, who organized the event with help from the J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World‘s Ignite Fund, received a standing ovation from the audience for her work in planning the Hack-A-Thon.

Eight students present on manuscript research at Boston University

By Hui Li ’21

On Thursday, December 7, 2017, seven Holy Cross students in the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents club spent their morning at Boston University, presenting for the Massachusetts Junior Classical League’s annual Classics Day.

The presentation began with opening remarks from Professor Neel Smith, the faculty advisor of MID. He introduced the high-school audience to the work MID does on Friday afternoons at Holy Cross and to the club’s contributions to the Classics.

Left to Right: Genevieve Galarneau, Dane Scott, Sophia Sarro, Luke Giuntoli, and Maia Lee-Chin, all ’21; Richard Ciolek ’20; Toni Armstrong (Clark University ’19) and Allyn Waller ’18; Professor Neel Smith.

Allyn Waller ’18 of Holy Cross and Toni Armstrong ’19 of Clark University, two members of the Chants group, presented first. They focus on transcribing the Latin text and its corresponding neumes, the earliest Western music notation, from the Einsiedeln Manuscript. Read further about the project here.

Richard Ciolek ’20 represented the Pliny project. He talked about his experience transcribing Latin text from photographs of the Bamburg Manuscript, which is one of the oldest manuscripts of Books 32-37 of Pliny’s Natural History.

Genevieve Galarneau, Luke Giuntoli, Maia Lee-Chin, Sophia Sarro, and Dane Scott, all ’21, spoke about the Twins project. They work on two uniquely-related manuscripts of the Iliad, compiling together photographs of the pages to make any future research easier.

A trilingual exchange in Beijing

By Vincent Crotta ’19

As a Classics major in China, I didn’t really expect to use much Latin or Greek — and for the most part I was right.

However, I recently had a really cool experience with one of my Chinese teachers. Here in Beijing the building we use for classes has a lot of unused classrooms, and I had asked my cultural adviser here if I could use one of these unused classrooms for painting.

She was kind enough to say “yes,” and so for the last few months I had been using an old classroom to paint and I had hung up some of the finished paintings on the walls. One of the paintings I had finished (pictured at right) was inspired by the song “Rändajad,” which is by the Estonian group Urban Symphony. One on my teachers came into the room and asked about the painting.

As I was explaining it to her in Chinese, she asked about the meaning of the name of the band. I told her the band was called Urban Symphony. She asked what the word “urban” meant, and I explained in Chinese that “urban” refers to the setting of a city and comes from the Latin word urbs, urbis, meaning “city.”

My teacher then asked if the words “rural” and “suburban” also had Latin roots, and I said that they also did. She was very excited to learn three new words in English and then in Latin, and I was happy to be able to teach her something new.

Presenting on Ancient Coins to a High School Class

By Hui “Luna” Li ‘21

On Friday, October 13, a month-and-a-half into my first semester at Holy Cross, I returned to my high school to give a presentation on my work with ancient coins. This fall, I started learning about ancient Greek and Roman coins on Fenwick 4. Outside of studying the history of coins in the ancient world, I am helping catalog the Worcester Art Museum’s collection as part of Professor Smith’s Ancient Coins class.

I thought it would be good to reach out to my former Classics teachers at Noble and Greenough School in late September with an offer to drop by and teach this year’s History of Ancient Greece class about coins of the past and the work we do on them today for future research. I am grateful to Mr. Blake, the chair of the Classics department at Nobles, and to Mr. Ulrich, the teacher of the History of Ancient Greece course, for being open to and excited about my idea. I made sure to include tidbits in my slideshow that both built off of what the students had already learned about ancient Greece and served as a segue to material they will be covering next week.

Introducing myself and starting the presentation.

Mr. Blake and Mr. Ulrich welcomed me back with open arms in an emotional reunion that I will not forget anytime soon. They looked happy to have me back on campus and were excited to hear about my adventures in the Classics department at Holy Cross. Mr. Ulrich told me that I had the entire 45-minute class period to present. This made me both nervous and excited about my presentation, but above all, I couldn’t wait to return to my old classroom and see all the students.

10:15 came soon enough, and I found myself in the room I knew too well. Part of me wanted to sit down with the students, but I knew that this day, I would be taking the teacher’s role in the classroom. I set up my computer, pulled up my presentation, and waited for Mr. Ulrich to turn the class’ attention to me. I cleared my throat, straightened my jacket, and began.

I introduced myself as a first-year Classics major at the College of the Holy Cross and a recent Nobles graduate, adding sarcastically that 2017 was so long ago. Whatever worries I had running through my mind melted away after hearing the class start laughing at my joke. I found it easier to smile as I went to the first parts of my slideshow.

I started with a brief introduction on numismatics and on how coins were made in the ancient world. I spoke about the coin hoard at the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, explaining why the well-preserved coins and the raw material they were found with were important for piecing together the history of coins, and laughing at the fact that the coins went missing in the British Museum for 90 years. I could not be happier that everyone was with me and that the students were engaged with the material.

Presenting to Mr. Ulrich’s History of Ancient Greece class.

From there, I moved onto ancient Greek coins, their designs, and their significance in the Aegean. I went over the parts and features of a coin and pulled up images of American coins for comparison. Circulating around the room was a purse of modern coins to add a more tactile experience to the presentation. The students followed along with my remarks on how similar our coins are to the coins used in the ancient Greek world – our quarters can feature the eagle (an animal symbol of the country, similar to how the Athenians had their owls) or a state (like how different city states had signature identifiers on their coins) on their reverses.

After a candy break (a custom I picked up from Mr. Blake, who bought us candy every Friday to keep us awake), I talked about my work in the Worcester Art Museum, examining photographs of the coins provided by the museum, identifying and assigning specific issues to each one, and filling in the data on our software. I showed them photos of the first coin I worked on, a silver denarius of the Roman emperor Galba from 68-69 C.E. Alongside the WAM-supplied images were pictures of a better-preserved example of the same issue, for a clearer image of what the coin might have looked like in the past, and a sample catalog entry for a coin of this sort. There were also photos of the other Roman imperial coins I was working on, screenshots of my catalog work, and candids of our class in action at the Worcester Art Museum.

Wrapping up my presentation, the point I made sure to touch upon the most was the fact that these were real coins we were working with, with our own hands, that these are what survive from the ancient world today. The research we are doing identifying and cataloging these coins will be valuable contributions to existing databases and will help numismatists of the future identify any yet-to-be identified coins. In my closing remarks, I left the class with a question: what will we leave behind for people of the future? If coins are what outlived their creators and are what we have today to piece together their lives in the past, what will our coins say about us?

After reading the acknowledgements on my last slide, I did not expect to receive so much applause in the classroom. This was my first time speaking to a class as a guest presenter, and I could not be any happier with the response I got from my audience. I was overjoyed to see the students so curious about ancient coins and about a different field of the Classics. It was after this moment that I could not be prouder to be a Nobles graduate.

With Mr. Ulrich (L) and Mr. Blake (R).

Thinking back to why I wanted to give this presentation, I remember that this time last year, when I was a student in this class, Mr. Blake invited his friend and former colleague, Professor Mires of Salem State University, to talk to us about underwater archaeology and his work on the Antikythera shipwreck. It was this brief glimpse into a new side of the field that inspired me to pursue the Classics in college. I never knew that I was going to be working with actual coins that ancient Greeks and Romans used in the past. I had no clue that I would be inspired by my Ancient Coins class to prepare and give this presentation. Now, I, once a student in History of Ancient Greece, was a guest speaker to a group of students one to two years younger than me.

I hope I can provide a different view to the Classics to the current Nobles students like Professor Mires did for me. I do not know how else I would have realized the sheer vastness of the field that stretches beyond language and history. Furthermore, I want to show these students that the Classics concerns not only the past, but the present and the future as well. What Professor Smith, my Ancient Coins classmates, and I are doing now will be for the present and future of the Classics. I hope my presentation carried those messages to the younger students, and I look forward to speaking about my work in the Classics again.

Greetings from Nijmegen, NL, where the nomina (and omina?) of many Romans lurk

Prof. Thomas Martin sends a dispatch from his trip to the Netherlands over October break.

About the same population as Worcester, Nijmegen is said to be the oldest city in the Netherlands, dating back to the late first/early second centuries CE. I don’t believe there are too many long-term Roman settlements north of here, so this is close to the northernmost edge of Roman expansion on the northwestern edge of the European continent (not including Great Britain).

Nijmegen is said to be from the Roman name given to this settlement of Romans and ancient Belgians in the very early second century, which was Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum. Noviomagus is said to be a Romanization of a Celtic phrase meaning “New Market” or perhaps “New Field.”

Not too far from the neighborhood where I am staying at the house of my daughter and her family, there is a collection of streets running along the side of a hill that stands parallel to a tributary of the Waal River, one of the two rivers in Nijmegen and itself a tributary of the Rhine River. These streets boast striking (for Classicists!) names. Photos of a selection of the streets’ signs and appearances are below.

The first photo shows the street sign for what would have been a cool address for hippie Latinists in San Francisco and Berkeley in the 1970s. (I won’t reveal how I know that there were hippie Latinists in San Francisco and Berkeley in the 1970s!)

The second photo shows the street associated with the first street sign. It seems fitting, given the often acerbic tone of author whose name is attached to the street, that it is a “Private Way.”

The third photo shows a street sign designating the “plaza” or “area” of a particularly dyspeptic early Roman Emperor. Given his distinctly-less-than-warm-and-fuzzy reputation, its seems ironic, as shown in the fourth photo, that his “area” is a inviting, grassy park in which children play soccer!

The fifth photo shows a street sign associated with a Roman Emperor said to have been more personable. It is then fitting, in his case, that his street (the sixth photo) also flanks an area where children play.

The seventh photo shows in the distance the narrow branch of the river beyond the hill where these streets lie, in a district perfectly suited for watching with care the traffic on the water, to try to see if it was bringing friendly visitors or hostile raiders.

New perspectives after a month in & around Greece

By Zach Sowerby ’19

Zach and Julia on a hill overlooking Athens. Mount Lycabettus, the Panathenaic Stadium, and the Aegean Sea are in the background.

It’s been nearly one month since my arrival in Athens, and Julia Spiegel has been here three weeks longer than I. We are both juniors, of the graduating class of 2019, spending this semester abroad as part of our Classics majors. We have spent our time here learning Greek, taking classes on a range of topics, exploring Athens and the local culture, and visiting the great historical and cultural centers of Greece.

The rate at which new information has been colliding with my brain has been so enormous that it sometimes can be tough to take a break to process everything. Over the last few weeks, our program has taken us to Delphi and Crete on extended trips, packed with professor-guided visits to cultural centers, archaeological sites, museums, and towns. A full review of even these two trips would consume countless pages of text, so I will allow the included pictures and their captions to tell some of the story. Classes themselves also often are held on site, out of the classroom, as professors introduce us to the topography of Athens or lecture on objects in one of Athens’ many museums.

The Temple of Apollo at Delphi and Mount Parnassus.

It has been most efficacious towards a well-rounded liberal arts education to immerse myself in the Greek way of viewing the world. From the day-to-day interactions with my professors and the people in my neighborhood, as well as from observing the manner in which Athens operates, I have gained a perspective distinct from my experiences in the US.

The Island of Spinalonga, off of Crete.

In case you missed it: links about HC Classics from earlier this year

*CBS news aired a feature story on departmental alum Anthony Fauci ’62 and his work on the AIDS epidemic

*Departmental alum Tabitha Lord ’93 published her second novel, titled Infinity.

*The Holy Cross website included profiles of retiring faculty, including Prof. Blaise Nagy of the Department of Classics.

*Jason Steranko ’17 blogged over the summer about his collection of Ancient Greek black-out poetry, titled Melasmos.

*The article “Citation and Alignment: Scholarship Outside & Inside the Codex” in the journal Manuscript Studies, written by Christine Roughan ’14, Prof. Neel Smith, and Christopher Blackwell, was made available through open access.

*Prof. Mary Ebbott’s essay “Seeking Odysseus’ Sister” appeared in Michigan Quarterly.

*Plans for the College’s new Center for Arts and Creativity will include a studio theater named after the late Kenneth Happe ’58, an associate professor emeritus of Classics.