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Ancient Greek



The Greek and Roman galleries reveal classical art in all of its complexity and resonance. The objects range from small, engraved gemstones to black-figure and red-figure painted vases to over-lifesize statues and reflect virtually all of the materials in which ancient artists and craftsmen worked: marble, limestone, terracotta, bronze, gold, silver, and glass, as well as such rarer substances as ivory and bone, iron, lead, amber, and wood. The strengths of the collection include painted Greek vases, Greek grave reliefs, Cypriot sculpture, marble and bronze Roman portrait busts, and wall paintings from two villas on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, one at Boscoreale and the other at Boscotrecase. The department's holdings in glass and silver are among the most important in the world, and the collection of archaic Attic sculpture is second only to that in Athens.




ancient greek



Ancient Greek astronomers' work is richly documented in the collections of the Library of Congress largely because of the way the Greek tradition of inquiry was continued by the work of Islamic astronomers and then into early modern European astronomy. This section offers a tour of some of the astronomical ideas and models from ancient Greece as illustrated in items from the Library of Congress collections.


By the 5th century B.C., it was widely accepted that the Earth is a sphere. This is a critical point, as there is a widespread misconception that ancient peoples thought the Earth was flat. This was simply not the case.


In contrast to the terrestrial, the celestial region of the heavens had a fundamentally different nature. Looking at the night sky the ancient Greeks found two primary kinds of celestial objects; the fixed stars and the wandering stars. Think of the night's sky. Most of the visible objects appear to move at exactly the same speed and present themselves in exactly the same arrangement night after night. These are the fixed stars. They appear to move all together. Aside from these were a set of nine objects that behaved differently, the moon, the sun and the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter each moved according to a different system. For the Greeks these were the wandering stars.


Thousands of years before machine learning and self-driving cars became reality, the tales of giant bronze robot Talos, artificial woman Pandora and their creator god, Hephaestus, filled the imaginations of people in ancient Greece.


Mayor, a historian of science, said that the earliest themes of artificial intelligence, robots and self-moving objects appear in the work of ancient Greek poets Hesiod and Homer, who were alive somewhere between 750 and 650 B.C.


At his core, the giant had a tube running from his head to one of his feet that carried a mysterious life source of the gods the Greeks called ichor. Another ancient text, Argonautica, which dates to the third century B.C., describes how sorceress Medea defeated Talos by removing a bolt at his ankle and letting the ichor fluid flow out, Mayor said.


In a 15-year span from the early 1960s to the mid 1970s, enrollment in high school Latin classes went from 700,000 to 150,000. The precipitous decline has abated somewhat. In 2014, 120,000 students in secondary schools were studying Latin, and for ancient Greek, about 2,200.


National Endowment for the Humanities funds many projects engaged in the teaching of classics. Since 1994, NEH has supported the Perseus Project, on online resource for everything related to Greek and Latin language and culture, with 11 grants, totaling $1,162,653. NEH has also supported classical education programs with a $98,461 grant to Grambling University for the teaching of ancient Greek drama at HBCUs, with a $185,000 grant to Miami University to support a multimedia resource on teaching classics for educators, and a grant to the University of Texas for a summer institute for schoolteachers on the influence of Cicero and ancient Roman law. Guy Rogers of Wellesley College received an NEH fellowship to do research on Artemis of Ephesos, and Diane Cline of George Washington University received an NEH summer stipend to study Greece and the ancient Near East. An $800,000 NEH grant supported a six-part documentary on the history and culture of ancient Greek civilization.


The Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy Workshop is a weekly forum for the study of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy since 2012. Sessions are divided among discussion of graduate student work in progress, translation and discussion of a selected ancient text in Greek or Latin, and talks by outside speakers. Participation in the workshop is required for students in either the Department of Philosophy or the Department of Classics who are enrolled in the Joint Program in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy. Participants from outside the Departments of Classics and Philosophy are welcome. See our workshop website for a schedule of the workshop's meetings and more information about the workshop's activities.


Still others go on to pursue a doctoral degree in classical studies, ancient history, comparative literature, religion, anthropology, ancient philosophy or a variety of other fields, including law or library science, in the finest programs in the country: Brown University, Brandeis University, Bryn Mawr College, University of British Columbia, Harvard University, University of California, Santa Barbara, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins University, to name a few.


For the Ancient Greek and Roman Civilizations track, you'll focus more on classical art and archaeology, Greek and Roman history, classical literature in translation and classical mythology, and less on the languages and literatures of ancient Greek and Latin in the original. This track is either for professional development or in preparation for PhD programs in classical art and archaeology or ancient history. You must write a 20-30 page master's thesis. There is no language requirement for admission.


For the Greek and Latin Languages and Literatures track, you'll focus on Greek and Latin philology, languages and literatures. This track is for you if you have already received substantial undergraduate training in ancient Greek and Latin. After completing this program, you'll be well situated for admission to rigorous PhD programs in classical studies across the U.S. and abroad. You must write a 25-50 page master's thesis with a defense, complete a qualifying paper under faculty supervision, or pass a comprehensive exam.


A symposium is a ritualized drinking event in ancient Greece. Its name, "symposium," literally refers to a "drinking together," a hint for the defining activity shared by participants of the symposium: the consumption of wine. Symposia are sometimes defined as banquets, but the official symposium usually occured after the consumption of food and is best understood as a drinking party (1). Our evidence for symposia comes from illustrations on various types of Greek vases, archaeological remains of houses and of vessels used during symposia, and discussions and descriptions in ancient texts, such as Plato's Symposium and Xenophon's Symposium, both written around 360 B.C.E.


Symposia in ancient Greece were hosted by aristocratic men for their peers. They were often held in private houses in a purpose-built room called the andron. The andron was usually located close to the front entrance of a house to limit visitors' access to the more private parts of the house. In the andron, participants of the symposium, called symposiasts, would recline on couches called klinai that were arranged around the borders of the room. Klinai were long and often elaborately decorated. Symposiasts drank from specialized drinking cups, which could be made from terracotta or more expensive metals, such as bronze, silver, and gold. Entertainment was provided by musicians, acrobats, and other performers, while symposiasts often engaged in activities including reciting poetry, telling bawdy jokes, and having sex.


The wine drunk at symposia was not like the wine we drink today. It was not, that is, left undiluted, but was mixed with water in precise proportions in a vessel called a krater. The mixing of water and wine ensured that symposiasts maintained composure and self-control, traits that were highly valued in ancient Greek society, at least according to most of our literature on the symposium. The Greeks seemed to believe that only barbarians -- and, of course, anyone who was not Greek was considered a barbarian -- drank unmixed wine (3). Despite the importance of self-control, however, many vases decorated with scenes of the symposium depict men engaged in activities that may be considered somewhat less than dignified. The tondo of a kylix in Berlin, for example, shows a man vomiting into a basin while a slave holds his head. On the exterior of a kylix in at the Getty Villa in Malibu, CA, a parade of revellers, called komasts, are shown wearing women's clothing as they dance in a drunken procession called a komos.


If we are to believe the bawdy scenes shown on many vases, various forms of sexual activity were also popular at symposia. Men in ancient Greece engaged in sexual activity with both men and women and sex acts were frequently depicted on Greek vases. Because "respectable" women were not allowed to attend symposia, women who are shown attending these parties are usually identified as courtesans, called hetairai, who "provided sex and music, and no doubt conversation" (4). Hetairai were differentiated from pornai, translated as "prostitutes," who were often of a lower class of slave. Hetairai and pornai on Greek vases are often depicted nude; when shown dressed, however, the association of objects like money pouches could signal their deviation from respectability.


Unlike many depictions on vases, ancient literature such as the treatises by Plato and Xenophon discuss the more dignified aspects of the symposium. Each author implies that the symposium was an elegant, intellectual gathering where men could eat and drink (in moderation, of course), recite poetry, and hold philosophical discussions. In fact, the men in Plato's Symposium (176a-e) consciously decide not to make the evening "a tipsy affair." Likewise, those in Xenophon's Symposium (2.26) heed this admonition spoken by Socrates: "If we pour ourselves immense draughts, it will be no long time before both our bodies and our minds reel, and we shall not be able even to draw breath, much less to speak sensibly." 041b061a72


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