Gregory Hays is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Virginia. (December 2015)

IN THE REVIEW

What’s So Great About the Greeks?

Max Beckmann: Odysseus and Calypso, 1943

Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind

by Edith Hall
Edith Hall’s Introducing the Ancient Greeks belongs to a familiar genre: the attempt to sum up ancient Greek civilization in two hundred pages for that elusive and mystical creature, the General Reader. The earliest recognizable example is perhaps R.W. Livingstone’s The Greek Genius and Its Meaning to Us (1912). Livingstone …

Roman Jokers

Illustration by John Leech from The Comic History of Rome, 1852

Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up

by Mary Beard
Elizabethans joked about cuckoldry and venereal disease. Roman audiences laughed at crucifixion jokes, bald men, and dwarves. The epigrams of the early imperial poet Martial circle back again and again to sniggering innuendos about bad breath and oral sex.

The Homeric MOOC: Will It Revolutionize Education?

Drawing by Edward Gorey from Rex Warner’s Men and Gods: Myths and Legends of the Ancient Greeks, published by NYRB Classics

The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours

by Gregory Nagy
Gregory Nagy has for many years taught a large lecture course on “the Greek hero,” both to regular Harvard undergraduates and to continuing education students. That course has now been transformed into a MOOC (massive open online course), to which his recent 700-page book serves as a kind of textbook. Its jacket promises “an exploration of civilization’s roots in the Homeric epics and other Classical literature, a lineage that continues to challenge and inspire us today.” In reality, The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours is a much stranger book than that, in both content and form.