Sunday, November 25, 2012

Award Winning Mac Classics Students

Congratulations to Mac Classics Major Mr. Brendan Palangio on being awarded 3rd place in the Classical Association of Canada's undergraduate essay competition. The essay, "'Books from the Ships' and Editors of Homer: The Library of Alexandria and Ptolemaic Cultural Hegemony," was written for Dr. Corner's 2LB3 History of Ancient Greece II. Mr. Palangio comments:

"In this paper, I explored the underlying political function of the Library of Alexandria, namely it's goal of achieving a Ptolemaic hegemony over Greek literary culture. I examined the Ptolemaic imperialist policy of zealously gathering, hoarding, and copying books as to house under one roof the entirety of Greek culture. I also analyzed the workings of library scholars, such as, Zenodotus of Ephesus, Callimachus of Cyrene, Apollonius of Rhodes and Aristophanes of Byzantium. I examined their efforts in cataloging, 'correcting', and commenting on works, and how these efforts created and perpetuated a Ptolemaic hegemony over literature in the Hellenistic age. Finally, I explored how the library acted as a connection to the Greek homeland, and a unifying force for Greeks in an alien world."

More information on the award can be found here:

The Faculty of Humanities at McMaster University also has an undergraduate essay award prize; information can be found here:

Congratulations also to Ms. Naomi Neufeld (Mac Classics `13), who recently presented the results of her Undergraduate Student Research Award at the USRA Poster Session. Ms. Neufeld (above, left, with 2011 USRA winner Owen Phillips and Classics Club Executive Emily Lemond) investigated the acculturative forces on Etruscan Culture in the Archaic period. Her research including participating in an archaeological excavation at Cerveteri (Italy) and visiting numerous archaeological sites and museums in Tuscany and Umbria. More information on the USRA can be found here:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mac Classics Departmental Events in October

The Department of Classics will host two talks this October:

On Friday, 19 October we will welcome Prof. Fabio Colivicchi of the Dept. of Classics at Queen's University, who will present, "From Etruscan city to Roman praefectura. New excavations in the central area of Caere". 
Friday, 19 October in DSB 505 at 3:00 pm.

On Monday, 29 October, Prof. Susanna Braund from the University of British Columbia will visit as the CAC Central Tour Speaker. She will present, "Women Ventriloquizing Women: Explorations and Extensions of Classical Myth"
KTH B124, 4:30 pm

All are welcome.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mac Classics Student Excavates in Italy

Ms. Naomi Neufeld (Classics '13) recently returned from the field and reports:

This June, I had the privilege of accompanying Dr. Fabio Colivicchi and the Queen’s Classics department ( on an archaeological excavation in Cerveteri, Italy. The excavation explored the Etruscan site of ancient Caere, which was a major southern Etruscan coastal city. Caere was one of the closest Etruscan cities to Rome, and was renowned for its religious significance and customs (the word “ceremony” even comes from the Latin word caeremonia, which means “pertaining to Caere”). We were working in the civic and spiritual centre of the city, excavating an exceptional Etruscan religious structure, called the Hypogeum of Clepsina. It is a subterranean ritual chamber which is constructed and oriented according to Etruscan cosmology, and which contains Hellenistic Etruscan frescoes, inscriptions, and a network of tunnels and staircases. In a nearby trench, we also excavated a late Etruscan and Roman urban area, in which we uncovered a Roman road, a possible domestic structure, and an underground shrine. This was my first archaeological excavation, and I was thrilled to learn more about archaeological theories, techniques, and practices.
On the weekends, we visited many important Etruscan sites, such as the Villa Giulia in Rome, the Banditaccia necropolis of Caere, and the painted tombs of Tarquinia. We also visited many of the important Classical sights in Rome, such as the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon. One of the highlights of the trip was an excursion to Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, which had some of the most fascinating and beautiful Roman ruins I have visited. I had such an amazing experience on this excavation that I hope to return and continue digging next year.

For the rest of the summer I am continuing to work on my USRA project, in which I relate what I learnt about the Etruscans during my trip, to further research about their culture and art. My research focuses on the vibrant funerary frescoes which adorn many Etruscan tombs, examining their thematic content and iconography to reveal evidence of Greek influence. Through this research I hope to understand better about the formative influences and cultural stimuli, both foreign and local, that created and contributed to the colourful and unique society of the Etruscan peoples.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

L'Arte Rinnova I Popoli e Ne Rivela La Vita

After presenting at the EAHN conference in Brussels, I had a moment to walk around the city and enjoy something new to me. My reaction reminded me of something I had seen in Sicily (as is often the custom): The Teatro Massimo in Palermo and its pedimental inscription “L’Arte Rinnovo il Popolo e Ne Rivela la Vita…Art renews the population and reveals life.” Seeing a new city is invigorating and approaching it as a Classicist is a type of exam, but also a type of payoff from many previous exams. I admired the triglyphs on the Neoclassical (but still exuberant) Bourse. I marveled at the neoclassical Triumphal Arch at the Parc du Cinquantenaire, and was reassured that the forms, architectural orders, and symbolic weight of Classical monuments we often discuss in 1A03 and elsewhere resonate far and wide across time and space.

What really captivated me about the city, however, was Art Nouveau. I got the chance to see the Maison Cauchie, and marveled at the engraved composition of the five senses. Even in the Art Nouveau style, the severity of the Classical and the decadence, drama, and tantalizingly charged style of the Hellenistic are echoed so that they partially betray the term “nouveau.” Glass, often stained glass, windows and dramatic flourishes of narrow iron made me feel as thought the Maison Horta (Horta Museum) were Pompeian fresco styles designed in full.
A quick tour around the city instantly demonstrated that this experience is the reward for a Classical education. The city unveiled itself as a playground of styles that either directly embraced the Classical world and deliberately evoked their venerability, or meaningfully turned away from the Classical tradition to create a clashing visual and functional contrast (I think this is why I love the Brutalist style so much – it is an expression of freedom from Classical tradition and a complete reinterpretation of public, visual, spatial and architectural objectives of a building). As the great poet wrote, “we buy with contrast.”
Small moments such as these made Classical Architecture, and Classics in general, immediate and relevant. It becomes clear to any observer that the Classical portion is just a few pieces of the puzzle and there many more that follow in place after them. The experience is the reward for studying this material: the jumble of names, dates, locations, sponsors, architects and artists that get lobbed out in 1A03, 2B03 and 2C03 were suddenly contextualized; it was then possible to see them not as a chore to master, but as the object of intellectual curiosity to chase back following the immediate visual input. In short, connecting the Triumphal Arch in Brussels with those of Septimus Severus and Constantine in Rome, and especially the entranceway to the Forum of Trajan (among others) scratched an intellectual itch.

This experience is not limited to European capitals; the same fascination and wonder can be developed in downtown Hamilton and Toronto or nearly wherever the Summer has taken you: turn on your sense of exploration and wonder the next time you go out: there will be a payoff to it, and to the investment you have already made in Classics. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Congratulations to Mac Graduates!

Congratulations to all new McMaster Graduates and special Congratulations to all Classics Graduates.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Welcome to Summer, Welcome to a New Season

Now that winter classes have ended, many Classics undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty are engaged in the second season, or research time. The concept of summer vacation has become a distant memory for many of us, as summer is now an integral part of academic life and is used to advance research, complete projects, or start a new investigation. The break from the regular rhythm of classrooms and lectures allows everyone a moment to focus on their own projects and to further develop our own contributions to the field and to the mass of information that gets disseminated in those classrooms. If academics were a sport, research season would be offence: the power play, passing from the line of scrimmage or getting multiple at-bats: it is the moment to move forward toward large goals. At its best, this time is an invigorating series of moments in which swarms of new ideas are developed, tested, refined, tested again and eventually presented to the academic community and the greater public. The reality, however, is that the research process conforms to Thomas Edison’s maxim suggesting that successful endeavors are more perspiration than inspiration.

Research will bring many of us to the field for archaeological excavations; Prof. Martin Beckmann is leading a group of student including Mr. Owen Phillips (Classics `13), Ms. Emily LeMond (Classics `13) and Mr. Jason Binder (MA `14) on a McMaster excavation at Teos in Turkey; Ms. Naomi Neufeld (Classics `13, Humanities USRA recipient for 2012 and the E.T. Salmon Travel Fellow) is excavating at Cerveteri in Italy and travelling in Italy (; Mr. John Fabiano (MA `13) and Ms. Barbara Scarfo (Ph. D. candidate) will spend time in Rome doing both first-hand research in the Eternal City and profiting from the world-class libraries there to advance their research. Mr. Jonathan Reeves will travel within Greece and spend time in Athens at both the American School of Classical Studies in Athens ( and the Canadian Institute in Greece ( including attending The CIG’s “Meditations on the Diversity of the Built Environment in the Aegean Basin: A Colloquium in Memory of Frederick E. Winter” ( Mr. Jonathon McCallum (MA `14) will also have an extended stay in Athens as a participant in the Summer Semester of College Year in Athens. Classics faculty are spending time in Rome, Athens, Copenhagen, London, Oxford, Brussels, Bologna, and Freiburg both in the library and participating in conferences.
Regardless of specific plans, the summer is the perfect time to get ahead in your work or satisfy your own intellectual curiosity. Perhaps it is the moment to re-read Homer, to dig into a book on Greek history, to read a recent article from a scholarly journal, or to simply wander through the shelves at Mills (or your nearest library) and open up a book on a topic that has interested you. Or maybe it is the right time to build on a term paper that ignited your imagination or revisit material from lecture that you want to learn more about. Whatever your interest is, this is a good time to explore ideas and expand your understanding of the ancient world; without the pressure the semester, it is a ripe opportunity to pursue your interests. Even a small investment now, with deadlines and term papers and final exams far in the distance, will pay off greatly in the fall. Enjoy the summer; enjoy the second season of academia.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Undergrad Thesis examines Old Comedy

Jason Binder (Classics '12) recently completed an undergraduate thesis under the direction of Dr. Daniel McLean:

My undergraduate thesis has focused on Athenian Old Comedy with a concentration on the most famous of the Athenian comic poets, Aristophanes (ca. 446 – 386 BCE). Of his 11 extant plays I explored three of the most abusive and topical:
Acharnians, Knights, and Clouds. My goal has been to disentangle the ostensible contradictions between the poet’s self-presentation in each play and the overarching values that the plays extoll. For example, is the Aristophanes who virulently attacks the sophistic ‘Socrates’ of Clouds at odds with his own use of sophistic argumentation? Is it not ironic that the choral leader in Knights utilizes rhetoric while the Paphlagonian (Cleon) is mocked for his own use of rhetoric? While on the surface these paradoxes may seem irresolvable, through a closer examination I argue that they point to a critique not of the aforementioned individuals but rather the sociocultural movements of Aristophanes' day that they served to epitomize. As such I postulate that the plays are commentaries on the limited tools for sociopolitical engagement in 5th century Athens.

Congratulations, Jason!

Friday, March 2, 2012

March Events in the Department of Classics

Please join the department for the events upcoming in March:

Thursday 15 March --- Prof. Robert Tordoff, Dept. of Classical Studies, York University, "The Communism of Aristophanes' Assembly Women: Problems in Comic Criticism and Politics"
4:30 pm in TSH 701

Tuesday 27 March --- Prof. Peter White, Dept. of Classics, University of Chicago, "Storytelling and Truth in the Confessions of St. Augustine" 4:30 pm, location TBA

Wednesday 28 March --- Prof. Peter White, "Emptying the Scrinia: Published Letter Collections after Cicero" 4:30 pm, TSH 701

Monday, January 23, 2012