Mapping the Underworld: Space, Text, and Imaginary Landscapes in Antiquity

One of the foremost painters of the mid 5th century BCE, Polygnotus, was allegedly commissioned by the Cnidian people to paint a clubhouse at Delphi. One of the themes was Odysseus’ ascension into the underworld, described in Book 11 of Homer’s Odyssey (the so called  νέκυια). However, Pausanias (10.28-31) reports that the painter took many liberties and mixed … More Mapping the Underworld: Space, Text, and Imaginary Landscapes in Antiquity

The Fall of the Roman Umpire: A Short History of Ancient Referees

At the Australian Open in 2008, tennis player Andy Roddick famously unleashed a tirade against court umpire Emmanuel Joseph, telling the crowd at one point: “Stay in school kids or you’ll end up being an umpire!” During the MLB playoffs this week, there were similarly slanderous remarks against the umpires uttered either directly to them, or muttered under the … More The Fall of the Roman Umpire: A Short History of Ancient Referees

Code Switching: Courtesans, Clothing, and Crossdressing in Antiquity

As I begin this post, it is the feast day of Saint Pelagia (October 8). In honor of the famed Antiochene actress and prostitute (known around Antioch as Margarita because she wore expensive pearls and jewelry), I decided to reread her hagiographical vita. A deacon named Jacob or James wrote of her fifth century CE conversion and baptism; abandoning the … More Code Switching: Courtesans, Clothing, and Crossdressing in Antiquity

Getting Sacked: Animals, Executions, and Roman Law

In my blogging, I have frequently discussed Roman approaches to crime and punishment (e.g., crucifixion and torture). However, as I sat prepping lectures for my Roman law course this week, I got distracted (it happens) and began to watch some clips from old James Bond movies (it happens a lot). After making a mental list of all the sharks … More Getting Sacked: Animals, Executions, and Roman Law