The Faculty of Classics: An Anthropologist’s Report

Editor’s note: A copy of this report was found this morning pushed under the door of the Mycenaean Epigraphy Room; it is reproduced here in its entirety, including the original illustrations. It is unsigned, and the author is unknown; presumably he or she wishes to remain anonymous in order not to jeopardise future fieldwork.

Many an explorer, anthropologist, or documentary-maker has attempted to enter the mysterious land known as the Faculty of Classics in order to study its inhabitants (termed Classicists). Living so long in isolation from the influence of the outside world, this uncontacted tribe must, it is often speculated, have developed its own, completely unique, culture, such as every anthropologist would dream of studying. It was, therefore, a great privilege for me not only to gain access to the Faculty of Classics just a few days ago, but also to witness first-hand one of the most important events of the Classicists’ ritual calendar: the festival known as Graduate Tea.

Participants in the celebration of Graduate Tea. See below on the ritual significance of the headdresses.

Although the language of the Classicists is, like all other aspects of their society, as yet poorly understood, it seems that the term Graduate refers to the level of initiation into the cult attained by the participants in this ritual,* while Tea is the name of the sacred drink (a mild stimulant) consumed in the course of the ritual. This Tea is in some way an embodiment or incarnation of the god Caffeine, so that the consumption of the drink is perhaps a form of communion with the god. Similarly there are various sacred foodstuffs, such as Brownies or Pie (illustrated):

Pie. The symbol decorating the top bears a remarkable resemblance to the Sign of Tanit, the Phoenician lunar goddess, but its significance to the Classicists is unknown
Pie. The symbol decorating the top bears a remarkable resemblance to the Sign of Tanit, the Phoenician lunar goddess, but its significance to the Classicists is unknown

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAgain, it seems that these are both sacred products in their own right and incarnations of gods – Brownies, for instance, apparently being the embodiment of both Chocolate and Sugar. The union of two gods in one foodstuff perhaps shows a connection of the ritual to fertility cults. The ritual headdresses worn by the participants, consisting of representations of wreaths of leaves, might also suggest a further connection to fertility and nature cults (their strong resemblance to Ancient Greek laurel wreaths is probably coincidental). The statue crowned with a similar wreath may be an anthropomorphic personification of one of the gods to whom this festival is dedicated (perhaps Caffeine).

What is clear from this preliminary study is that the Classicists‘ religion is characterised by highly complex ritual ceremonies. A great deal of further study will be needed to elucidate the multivalent significances of these ceremonies and the overall structure of the belief system, to say nothing of the place of ritual and belief in the Classicists’ society as a whole; but it is my hope that, now that initial contact has been established, a great deal more insight into the Faculty of Classics will soon be forthcoming.

*The cult structure appears to be rigidly hierarchical. Highest up the ranks are the Professors, presumably a kind of High Priest, although there appear to be several at any one time (we might perhaps think of the Roman pontifices). Senior Members appear to be a kind of lesser priest; Graduates rank below these but above the lowest rank, the Undergraduates, novices awaiting their first initiation ceremony.

Author: Anna P. Judson

Classics researcher at Cambridge

9 thoughts on “The Faculty of Classics: An Anthropologist’s Report”

    1. True. There are quite a few indications that the author of this report may have got a little carried away in drawing parallels with other cultures (I’m not at all convinced that the Faculty of Classics has a cult of Tanit, for instance).


      1. Yes it does. I’m here. Hello! I like to think I keep the fires burning for all the Ba’als and Ba’alats cruelly marginalised by so-called ‘mainstream’ Classics.

        I’ve decided: what I do isn’t ridiculously obscure. It’s ‘cult’.


  1. Coming up next week: Tolerance or Repression? A Study of the Treatment of Minority Religions in the Faculty of Classics, in Comparison to Christianity in the Roman Empire


  2. I can only admire this scholar’s ground-breaking work into one of the most under-discussed cultures of this era. Their reading of the cult statue is particularly enlightening; it seems clearly to represent the dual nature of Caffeine as embodied by the Tea ritual. The mild incline of the head and bent knees suggest the weary state in which the ritual is frequently undertaken, while the erect torso suggests the stimulation imbibed into the stomach and heart. I look forward to further insights from this study.


    1. Thank you for the insight into the iconography of this cult, Fran! It’s clear that there’s a lot still to be done before we fully understand the Tea ritual and the cult of Caffeine, but progress is definitely being made. We shall have to hope that future enactments of this rite will give the anonymous Anthropologist the opportunity to conduct further study.


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