On Wednesday, April 19, the student Classics society Eta Sigma Phi hosted the College’s first Homerathon, a daylong reading of all twenty-four books of Homer’s Odyssey to the campus community. The event, which took place in the Hogan Oval, was a fundraiser for Ascentria Care Alliance, a local organization devoted to immigrant and refugee resettlement.
On April 6, 2017, the Holy Cross Classics Department and the student society Eta Sigma Phi hosted our 45th annual Classics Day, with hundreds of high school students from around New England gathering for a day of Classically themed competitions and events. Click here for the Holy Cross news story on the day.
This year we honored Ms. Antoinette “Toni” Methe, the administrative assistant in Classics, on the occasion of her last Classics Day. Toni has worked at Holy Cross since 1974 and in the Classics Department since 1990. She has organized Classics Day for the last 27 years. Students signed posters for Toni and the Hogan Ballroom full of students resounded with cheers of “Gratias tibi, Toni!” We also read tributes to Toni from four alums of the Department. We print those tributes here:
Michael Russo ‘15
This is Michael Russo, graduate of the class of 2015, writing to you now as a middle school Latin teacher from Texas. I am saddened to know that the Fenwick 4 that I knew will never be the same. I cannot even imagine what the Department of Classics at Holy Cross will be like without you, Toni. You have been its administrative secretary of decades, its longstanding and true bedrock. Your consummate ability to marshal people and resources and to spearhead and organize the annual Classics Day on the campus for countless years has helped make The College of the Holy Cross a local, state and national giant in the promotion of the study and appreciation of the Classics. I will never forget your very friendly and hospitable personality or your constant commitment to the good and proper management of the department and the well-being of its majors (or your operatic voice or love for cats!) On behalf of all Holy Cross Classics majors, I wish you the best health and most happiness that anyone could ever have.
Deborah Sokolowski ‘14
Toni was one of the first people I ever met at Holy Cross, when she kindly helped me–a VERY lost freshman–find my first Latin classroom. I was fortunate enough to see her kindness almost every day in the department, and I especially enjoyed working with Toni to prepare for Classics Day — I say “with” because, even though Toni always had the event planned down to the last detail, she always took the time to explain schedules to us, which she had carefully planned out well in advance so that everything ran smoothly. I especially had fun working the sign in table with her, as many returning teachers and students either knew her as Holy Cross alums, or had come to know her over the years as the “brains behind the whole operation.” Toni’s hard work not only during Classics Day, but daily in the department, made everyone feel welcome and excited to be a part of the Classics community!
Lee Fratantuono ‘95
Toni Methe for years now has been the heart and soul of Holy Cross Classics. Who can forget her wisdom, humor, kindness and generous help? She guided so many student workers, majors, and friends of the Classics Department through so much. She was a master of organizing the many and varied activities of the department, not least with her meticulously crafted flyers and posters…a vintage collection of which I fondly keep in my own office desk. She served a special, extraordinary role as travel secretary to the late, much missed Ken Happe on his many world travels, helping to share news of his adventures with his friends and colleagues. Toni will never be replaced and always be remembered. Her legacy of service to Holy Cross Classics is well deserved and assured.
William Ziobro ’66 (Professor Emeritus in Classics)
For well over 30 years I had the pleasure to work with Toni on planning many events for the Holy Cross Classics Department – from that of the Bean Scholarship to different Lecture Series. There was no event, or program, however, that Toni made more “her own” than Classics Day. She took complete ownership of the Day, from its early planning every year, to organizing the participation of Holy Cross Classics majors, to all internal contact at the College, and all external contact with so many schools throughout New England. She was the prime reason why Classics Day has grown from about 100 hundred students to 400 or 500 students. In the background of every chariot race, every lunch reservation, every security arrangement – the list goes on and on – Toni was the driving force. Thank you, Toni, for making this day so memorable for all the guests whom you have so cordially welcomed to the Holy Cross campus. Yours has been a job exceptionally well done. Congratulations!
On Saturday, February 25, fourteen students from Professor Neel Smith’s “Archaeology and Time” course explored the “Time and Cosmos in Greco-Roman Antiquity” exhibit, curated by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, an affiliate of New York University (NYU).
Christine Roughan ’14, a Classics major and physics minor while at the College and currently a Ph.D. candidate at NYU, gave Prof. Smith’s class a private docent tour upon arrival. The exhibit allowed students to connect their previous knowledge of timekeeping methods garnered from the course with practical, technologically advanced possessions from antiquity. Some featured objects in the exhibit included numerous public and portable sundials (a way for the ancients to calculate the passage of time by observing the shadows cast by the sun); the Roman calendar, or fasti, carved in marble; surveying instruments; and other tools for timekeeping.
On the tour Roughan highlighted the importance of astrology and the zodiac symbols that we know in modernity as a way for ancient Greeks and Romans to reflect on time and the universe’s dual partnership that had the power to shape the environment and destiny.
“Archaeology and Time” is an advanced archaeology course that aims to understand what kinds of evidence and reasoning lie behind chronological claims about events, such as Xerxes invading Greece in 480 B.C. and Mount Vesuvius erupting precisely on Aug. 24, A.D. 79, by means of literary/historical sources and other dating methods. In addition, the course allows students to blend theoretical reasoning with hands-on research that will culminate in a research project that assesses and seeks to explain a chronological problem through the use of primary evidence.
We extend congratulations to Maureen (Gassert) Lamb ’07, who was named the 2016–17 Connecticut Language Teacher of the Year. Maureen has been teaching Latin at the Westminster School in Simsbury, CT, for eight years and is currently serving as the Language Department Head. While at Holy Cross Maureen was a double major in Classics and Music.
Maureen was also recently awarded the 2017 Dr. Elizabeth Watkins Award from the American Classical League, as well as a Mead Fellowship from the New England Council of Foreign Language Teachers to create a website with resources for beginning Latin and Ancient Greek teachers in New England.
For more on Maureen’s honor as Connecticut Language Teacher of the Year, click herefor the story in the Hartford Courant.
On December 1 I presented at Boston University for the Massachusetts Junior Classical League Classics Day, attended by over 850 high school students and teachers. I was there as one of a handful of college undergraduates, known as Senior Classical Leaguers. My presentation, titled “Wine and Dine in Ancient Rome,” considered the culinary and dining customs in ancient Greece and, especially, ancient Rome.
In the presentation I moved from sharing what would happen at a convivium, symposium, and every day dining to representations of food in literature, using Plautus, Horace, Juvenal, Catullus, and Plato as key examples. I discussed how certain literary features originate from ancient uses of different foods, citing, for example, Emily Gowers’ interpretation of the Atellan farce character “Maccus” as being connected to the name of a mashed cereal dish.
Furthering this point, I began to discuss my own interpretation of “false Epicureanism” in Juvenal and Horace, asserting that the idea of luxury that they each bring up in their satires by including Falernian wine and other expensive dining items parallels the attitude of real Epicureans, despite the fact that it conflicts with their own ideals.
Moving forward to Catullus’ thirteenth poem, I discussed the cena, or dinner party, as a way to advance politically, but also in a metaphorical sense. I considered how the modern film interpretation of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays a dinner scene between Tom and Daisy where no food is eaten. In Catullus 13, Catullus invites Fabullus over for dinner without having any food on the table. Furthermore, at the dinner scene in The Great Gatsby, Tom and Daisy spend their time “conspiring” as Tom promises to make Daisy happy. Catullus wants to spend his time “conspiring” as he promises to give Fabullus true friendship. Cena and convivium in both instances come to represent more than just a meal, but also the idea of a communion – or conspiring – over food.
My presentation was followed by a brief question and answer session, mostly focused on what I thought about the use of words such as sal as having a double meaning, “salt” and “wit.” To this I said “Well, look at our use of the word ‘salty.’”
Nicholas Guarracino ’18, a double-major in Classics and Italian, is spending the academic year studying at Loyola University’s John Felice Center in Rome. He is also finding time to travel around Italy and Europe — and documenting it all (or a lot of it, at least) on his blog.
Click here to read and see much more on Nick’s blog.
Heroes battling rivers, eagles predicting the future, temples located on spectacular mountain peaks! The natural world played a central role in so many aspects of the lives of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and this semester a group of Holy Cross students in Prof. Aaron Seider’s new course “Nature in the Classical World” will be sharing their ideas on these topics and more in a series of eleven Podcast episodes.
So, if you’re intrigued by the notion of exploring what the Greeks and Romans thought about topics like nature and spirituality, reincarnation and the universe, or humans and animals, then I’d encourage you to subscribe: https://itun.es/i6hC9dB. You’ll be fascinated by what you hear.
On Thursday, October 20, Eric Adler, Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Maryland, delivered at talk at Holy Cross titled “The Transformation of Humanism and the Fate of Classical Studies in America.” The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session, and a group of Classics majors and faculty continued the discussion with Prof. Adler over dinner.
The talk and dinner were sponsored by the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture. The McFarland Center has posted a video of the talk and the Q and A that followed here. And here is the video from YouTube:
This past summer, I had the privilege and the pleasure of working on an archaeological excavation at Poggio del Molino in central Italy. Along with two other Holy Cross students, Amanda Kondek ’17 and Eric Fox ’18, I spent several weeks kneeling on rocks, scraping dirt off of other dirt, discovering how much rock looks like pottery, and vice-versa.
A Day in the Life
On a typical day, we would get up early in the morning, eat breakfast, pack lunches and head to the dig site. Five minutes down a dirt road in between fields of grapes and we arrived at the site. After digging for a few hours, painstakingly scraping the dirt up one layer at a time, checking each object for archeological significance and brushing up the dust, we took a coffee break. After half an hour or so sitting in the shade, it was back to work again.
When we found something in the layer we were removing, we would carefully remove the dirt around it to determine if it was fully contained in the layer. If it was, we removed it and placed it in a bag for later cleaning and labeling. Unless, of course, it was actually a rock. Determining whether something was a rock or pottery sherd, however, was not always easy. “Is this rock or pottery?” was a constant refrain for the first few days, at least until one of the grad students at the site explained that we could always lick it and find out. (Apparently, since pottery is porous, it will stick to your tongue if you lick it.)
Eventually, it was time for lunch. (That is, if you weren’t full from licking rocks all morning.) During lunch, we had the opportunity to talk to the other people who were working on the site with us. Each week, there was a different group working with us on the dig. One week, it was a group of Italian high school students who were spending their summer trying out different jobs a week at a time, getting a feel for what they wanted to do. Another, it was a group of students from all over Europe and North America as part of a summer program in archaeology. For two weeks, we had a group of restoration experts working on the mosaics of the baths and bedrooms.
But Poggio del Molino was more than just a rich Roman’s mosaicked country retreat. It began, in fact, with pirates. The earliest structures we have evidence of at Poggio del Molino are three towers designed for defending the nearby Etruscan settlement of Populonia from pirates. Later, after the Roman republic controlled the area and mitigated the threat of piracy, the site became a factory for producing garum, a sauce made from pickling fish intestines.
During the Empire, as it became cheaper to produce garum in newly-acquired territories like North Africa, it was turned into a country villa for some wealthy Roman family. Sometime in Late Antiquity, the bedrooms of the villa were reconstructed into a small church by knocking all interior walls down and walling up the doorways.
Due to this varied history, there were lots of really interesting things to be found at our site. Several bronze coins, ranging in size and preservation from a small speck just half the size of a pinky nail up to an inch-wide disc with legible writing and a clear profile were found in and around the area we worked in. We found evidence of iron-mongering operations, including leftover iron slag, hematite ore, and the burns left by furnaces on the floor. I found a small block of lead, which I thankfully recognized before anyone licked it. We found both bronze and iron nails, as well as some larger, but mostly unrecognizable, iron pieces.
We found pottery, of course. Most of it was fairly coarse cooking ware or simple dining or storage pottery, but I did find a fancy painted black-slipware piece from the fourth century BCE. Of course, the excitement from finding it was slightly marred by the fact that it should not have been there. I found it in the uppermost layer of soil, the humus, under the roots of a big pine tree. Chronologically, we should have been finding cassette tapes and floppy disks, not pottery pushing 2500 years.
That strangely located piece, however, has to contend with another for the best find of the summer: The Italian high school students working the room next to ours found a completely intact clay lamp! It looked as if it had just been pulled out from behind the glass in a museum display. It was absolutely incredible, although my expectations might have been slightly lowered by 87,492 things I had found that day that weren’t pottery, much less intact.
Of course, it wasn’t all kneeling on rocks and scraping dirt out of tree roots. On weekends we were free to take trips to various cities around Italy, so we saw a lot of museums (and gelaterias). To me, though, the most exciting museum was the one in the modern-day town of Populonia, where most of the collection came from Poggio del Molino. I like knowing that the things I excavated could end up in a museum someday, informing future Classicists. Increasing our knowledge about the world of around two thousand years ago is worth a little dirt-scraping and root-kneeling. But maybe not rock-licking.
Allyn, from Atlanta, Georgia, is a Classics major with a minor in Computer Science. He is also completing the Teacher Education Program at Holy Cross.
Alex Simrell ’16 is spending 2016-17 at the University of Zagreb in Croatia on a Fulbright Fellowship. Click here for Alex’s blog, which includes an entry that makes the case for the long-term importance of studying Greek and Latin.