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.
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.
During the 2017 Commencement Week, Classics major Stephanie Neville ’17 read the following reflection to classmates at the senior luncheon. Stephanie, who is from Grand Island, NY, began the study of Latin and Greek at Holy Cross and was a four-year member of the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club. This summer Stephanie will continue her internship at Dovetail Internet Technologies in Worcester, and in the fall she will begin as a law student at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA.
Beginning on move-in day at Holy Cross, we were encouraged to Live the Mission. We were told to be men and women for others. And as first year students we nodded and went along with it because I do not think that any of us truly understood what those phrases meant at the time. For each of us, however, as we spent our days trekking between buildings on Mt. St. James, we came to understand the significance of those words in a different way, and we came to see how we could apply these terms to our everyday lives.
In my own experience, I came to understand these words in my attempt to create a college bucket list, as I imagine many of us attempted at one point or another. Early on during my Holy Cross career, I jotted down a list of 25 tasks, some more generic than others, that I hoped to complete before I graduated. I then saved my list so I could return to it and mark off those experiences as necessary. Spoiler alert, I never completed all of the tasks on that list.
Not long after I made this list, I felt that something was just not quite right about it. While studying outside in the Hoval and finding the fourth floor of the science building, as a humanities major, were interesting experiences, these did not seem to mean as much to me as the small yet meaningful moments that I increasingly experienced as I met more people on the Hill. So, as a typical Holy Cross student would, since my first list just did not live up to my expectations of what I had hoped it would be, I did the only logical thing: I made a second list. Although this list was a little different from my first, it was something my roommate and I referred to as a nectar list. Whenever I had a new and often unanticipated experience in my life that I felt had meaning to me, I wrote it down in a list. Pretty soon, I had recorded over two hundred moments that I might have otherwise forgotten, like that time the RA knocked on my door on a school night because my roommate and I sang along to Les Mis a little too enthusiastically or the first time one of my professors invited me to office hours just to talk with me about how I was enjoying my classes so far.
Looking back at the moments I included on my nectar list, it is clear that the experiences that seemed to mean the most were the everyday and even mundane moments that I had the pleasure of sharing with all kinds of people that I was able to meet. We can all think of people who helped to make our college experience meaningful for us, of the passerby who became a mentor, of strangers who became family. Years from now, when we look back at our time in college, of course we are going to remember those monumental experiences we had, such as when we boarded a plane to study abroad or when we formally declared our major. But when we reflect on what this time actually meant to us and how it shaped the people we are today, we are going to think of the fleeting moments we shared with people who have come to mean the world to us. We are going to think of scouting out tables in Dinand, of asking a friend to swipe us into a dorm when we lost our ID, of waiting in line on chicken parm night at Kimball.
And when we look back at those small moments, those will be the moments that we can look back upon to see how much we’ve grown. When I look back at my list, I am able to see a progression of a timid freshman who fell on the Fenwick stairs on to a more seasoned and a much more comfortable Holy Cross student who tried my hand at cooking in the apartments and who ventured to explore the area around Holy Cross like the Worcester Art Museum, the Blackstone movie theater with discount movie Tuesdays, and other areas of New England that I had never visited.
By choosing to embrace our identity as Holy Cross students, we have already begun to Live the Mission. By immersing ourselves in this incredible community in whatever ways we have found ourselves called, we have played a role both in shaping each other’s experiences and in growing as individuals. Even the smallest moments we have shared with friends or acquaintances on campus or in the Worcester community can have an impact, as we never can fully comprehend how our words or gestures can take effect. Even a passing smile or an open door can make all the difference to someone. At Holy Cross, we have learned how to be open to sharing those moments with those we have been blessed to have around us. As a class, we have served as orientation leaders, served as club leaders, congratulated our classmates who have won Fulbrights or secured jobs, and proofread essays for our peers. In whatever way the opportunity has presented itself, we have learned to support each other, and we have learned how to extend those gestures of support to those beyond the Holy Cross community. Many of us have participated in international or domestic service trips, have served as big brothers and sisters, and have led fundraisers.
I think it’s fair to say that we’ve put in a lot of hard work into our education, our relationships, and our growth as men and women for others. But this is only one milestone in our journey. As we move forward to the next phase of our lives, we must continue to embrace the small moments in life and recognize the beauty in sharing these with the people around us. With this mindset, we can be open to new experiences and to reaching out to new people. With this mindset, we can continue to expand our own definitions of what it means to Live the Mission and to be men and women for others. What are the small moments that you have experienced at Holy Cross that have shaped who you are today and who you want to be?
On May 12 and 13 we had the opportunity to attend “Digital Classics III: Re-thinking Text Analysis,” a conference held at the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Heidelberg, Germany. For those as uninformed as we were before this trip, Heidelberg is an incredibly beautiful city.
The conference allowed us to present many of the results from our respective senior theses. Melody’s thesis is titled, “Alexandrian editors and the scholia of the Venetus A” while Charlie’s thesis is titled “On the format of the scholia to the Iliad in the Venetus A.”
Both of us were working on applying digital tools in order to analyze patterns of language within the scholia (or scholarly commentary) to the Iliad in the tenth-century Venetus A manuscript. In addition to our research, we also discussed more generally the methodology of the Homer Multitext project. This portion of the talk was prepared and developed by our thesis advisor, Professor Neel Smith; however, he was ultimately unable to attend the conference.
Beyond our own presentation, we were also able to listen to talks from several digital Classicists. From their presentations and the discussions which followed, we learned a great deal about different ways to analyze Classical texts using digital technologies. We were particularly interested by the couple of talks which detailed automated analyzes of the language in Greek tragedy. For example, Francesco Mambrini of the German Archaeological Institute was able to show how the Paedagogus from Sophocles’ tragedy Electra speaks in a manner most similar to the choruses of Sophocles’ plays. (Click here for a link to the full conference program.)
However, attending the conference was only one part of this trip. There was ample time for us to explore the culture and history of Heidelberg. Sausages with sauerkraut were a mainstay of almost every meal, but the real highlight was getting to explore the large Heidelberg Castle along with its gardens. Due to our early morning arrival in the city, the castle was largely devoid of tourists, making the sights all the more enjoyable. The crown jewel of the castle was its surprising collection of increasingly large barrels, the biggest of which is shown below.
In the end, we are extremely thankful to the Ignite Fund for covering the expenses necessary for this trip. We were able not only to visit this incredible city but also to grow more experienced as scholars of Digital Classics.
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.