Archive for the ‘Just Fun’ Category

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Solving a Quotation Mystery with Digital Loeb Classical Library

October 8, 2014

I got a message from an old friend – not a classicist – recently:

Many years ago I remember reading a prayer in a Greek tragedy that had a line something like “I’ll be satisfied if my lot is two thirds good.” I believe it was a woman bargaining with the gods during the sacking of Troy. I’m pretty sure it was one of the b-side plays that came in the same book with one of the more famous ones I had to read at [College with a strong classical tradition].

She wondered if it rang a bell to me, as despite intermittent Googling over the years she hadn’t been able to track it down.  I went to Wikipedia for lists of tragedies by the Big Three (Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus) and used them to jog my memory for plays that might be set at the sack of Troy.  I skimmed free online translations of Euripides’ Trojan Woman and Hecuba without any luck on day 1.

On day 2, I happened to be at the University of Cincinnati Classics Library playing with their trial of the Digital Loeb Classical Library, and kind of on a whim I constructed an Advanced Search asking for all occurrences of the phrase “two thirds” in the works of the three tragedians. (Boolean searching nerdery alert: Author = Euripides OR author = Sophocles OR author = Aeschylus AND words in text = two thirds.)

Bingo! It’s at the end of Aeschylus’ Suppliants:

Image of Loeb Digital Volume of Aeschylus, Suppliants.

So this serves as your teaser for my in-progress post about the Digital Loeb – and also a reminder of the timelessness of classical literature. As my friend wrote, “It stuck with me because it’s just such a humble and reasonable request.” I, too, hope for a life that’s two-thirds good. (And because I am not currently standing in the ruins of a sacked city, I’m feeling like I’m ahead of the game.)

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End of Semester Wrapup/Madness

May 11, 2011

I am officially finished with spring semester 2011, and hope you are coming to that place too (I know many UGA faculty are still grading like mad – graduation is Friday and non-senior grades aren’t due until Tuesday; some friends elsewhere have been finished for several days now, and people on a quarter system are just chugging along.)

Let’s take a moment to bid farewell to the spring by way of the wackiest exam madness story I heard: Students released 18 chickens and 2 roosters into the Emory Library.  This is hilarious, unless you’re the one who has to clean up after it (or you’re one of the chickens).

I celebrated this morning by resetting 18 Kindles to their factory settings, and just met with my colleague to set up a (fierce!) schedule for drafting the results of this spring’s Kindle experiment.  That’s one of the six projects currently on my summer list; the others include migrating (a lot of) content to a new software, organizing the library’s participation in 26 new student orientation fairs (UGA is a big school; they do orientation all summer), and doing a big push forward on the Ancient World Open Bibliographies project (I should really count that as two or maybe 3 projects by itself).  (Possibly I should also abuse parentheses less.) Summer for librarians is not that different from summer for faculty – that 2 or 3 days of “phew, I’m done!” immediately followed by “okay, here’s what I’ve got to do next.”  Wading in…

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Friday Fun: Could you get into Harvard in 1869?

April 1, 2011

Not an April Fool’s post, but a light-hearted one, on this day when, in addition to watching out for jokesters, many high-school seniors and their parents learn their fates for the coming 4 years.  The NYTimes today has an article about the admissions process for elite colleges in the later part of the 19th century, calling the period a “buyer’s market” where 7/8ths of the students who took the Harvard entrance exam got in.  But what an entrance exam (.pdf file) – do you know any modern 17 year olds who could “give synopses (through all of the Moods) of the Aor. Mid, and Aor. Pass. of βουλεύω, and inflect the Imperatives”?

I happen to have a relative who probably sat the exam linked above, or one very like it, since he got a BA from Harvard in 1871; a family memoir notes, however, that he was learning his latin declensions, taught by his (exceptionally well-educated – she attended Mary Lyon’s Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in the early 1840s) mother, at age 7.  My own 7 year old is already behind, I must confess.

(My relative, John Henry Wheeler, studied with Gildersleeve at Johns Hopkins and got a PhD in Classics from Bonn in 1879 and fetched up as Professor of Greek at UVA, before dying young of a heart condition. He is mentioned in Ward W. Briggs, “Gildersleeve and M. Carey Thomas,” American Journal of Philology, v. 121, n. 4 (2000), p. 629-635.)

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From the Mouths of Babes (Just for Fun)

February 4, 2011

In May 1998, two weeks after finishing my comprehensive exams for the PhD, my fiance, my sister and I drove the 3-tiered wedding cake to my wedding – an hour’s drive over rural roads – in the back of a 1988 Toyota Corolla hatchback.  Overwhelmed with nerves in general, which coalesced around the fate of the cake, I spent the entire ride telling my long-suffering loved ones the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae, as recounted by Herodotus. (Nobody died at the wedding, and the cake was delicious.)

Last Friday night, when my children asked for a(nother) bedtime story, my husband (misremembering what has become a family legend; he’s an engineer)  said, “Tell them about the Peloponnesian War!”

My son (4) said, “The Pelopo-cheese-ian War??” and we were off, ultimately devising a story in which the Spartans brought the cheese and the Athenians the crackers. (We didn’t think to add, but a friend did, that the Athenians had to return “with their crackers, or on them!”) My daughter (7) is contemplating creating a comic book on the subject.

I told the story on Facebook and a friend from graduate school promptly replied that well into his teen years he himself had believed that the Battle of Salamis somehow involved cured meats.  Friends, what deep misunderstandings about the classical past did you hold as a young person?