I’m always interested to see how contemporary writers retell stories from the ancient world. When it’s done well, it can lead to a fascinating interplay between the ancient and modern versions of the stories – for instance, see my previous review of a wonderful collection of short stories based (loosely) around the Odyssey. I had pretty high hopes when House of Names, by the Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, was published in 2017. The book is based on the myths of the House of Atreus, as told in various Greek tragedies such as Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy: Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia on his departure to the Trojan War; his murder, and that of the Trojan princess Cassandra, by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus on his return; her subsequent murder by her son Orestes, encouraged by his sister Electra). Plenty of scope for a novelist of Tóibín’s talents (his novel on Irish migration to America, Brooklyn, won the Costa Book award and became a bestseller, and I can definitely recommend it) – and also, I have to say, an excellent cover, with the swallows from the Spring Fresco of Akrotiri.
I’m away at the moment to attend a conference (more on that soon…) so this is just a quick post to say that a book review of mine has just appeared on the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. It’s of a volume entitled “Variation within and among Writing Systems: Concepts and Methods in the Analysis of Ancient Written Documents”, edited by Paola Cotticelli-Kurras and Alfredo Rizza – check it out here!
Not a game that I’ve made this time, but one I bought some time ago: when I found out there was a board game called ‘Cyclades‘ about a bunch of Greek cities fighting for control of the Cycladic islands with the help of various gods and mythical creatures, I pretty much had to get a copy and give it a go. I finally just got around to trying it out with my usual crew of fellow-Classicist-board-game-fans and can report it was a great success (and not just because I won. OK, a little bit because I won.)
Last term I wrote a review of the fantastic Cambridge Greek play, a tragedy/comedy double bill of Antigone and Lysistrata: now the production team have made some video highlights of both plays available online. Have a look at the video below!
There’s a tradition in Cambridge of putting on a production of an Ancient Greek play every three years – entirely in Ancient Greek (with English surtitles!). Expectations were running high this year when, after a phenomenal tragedy-comedy double bill three years ago (Prometheus Bound and The Frogs), the same production team returned for another double bill: Antigone and Lysistrata – a tragedy about a woman who defies the laws of her city (and her uncle Kreon, the king) to bury her dead brother, and a comedy about a woman who organises a sex-strike to put an end to wars between the Greek city-states. When I say expectations were running high, I mean that at the time of writing tickets were entirely sold out, though there may be returns for the last couple of shows on October 14th and 15th (check the theatre site) – but I also mean that I personally was looking forward to another incredible performance – the ‘Prometheus’ last time round in particular was hands down the best production of any ancient Greek play I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen quite a few. I’ve just got back after the show, and I can safely say I wasn’t disappointed – in fact I think this production may have been even better than the last one. Continue reading “The Cambridge Greek Play 2016: Antigone and Lysistrata”
Following my recent trip to the British Museum to see their exhibiton on Egyptian underwater archaeology, yesterday I had another trip to see their second current exhibition, ‘Sicily: Culture and Conquest‘. This focuses on two periods of Sicily’s history: the period of Greek and Phoenician settlement on the island (from around the 8th century BCE to the Roman conquest in the 3rd century) and the period of Norman rule in the 11th and 12th centuries CE. The exhibition’s premise is that these two ostensibly quite different periods both feature particularly creative interactions between the many different cultures which made up the population of Sicily, whether between Greeks, Phoenicians, and native inhabitants, or between Normans, Greeks, and Arabs. Continue reading “Sicily: Culture and Conquest – review”
I recently went to see the British Museum’s current blockbuster exhibition, ‘Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds’ (on until November 27th), which showcases recent finds from the cities of Thonis-Herakleion and Canopus, port cities on the edge of the Nile Delta which are now largely underwater; the exhibition also includes material from the BM’s excavations at Naukratis (a Greek trading settlement upriver from the two ports) as well a large number of loans from Egyptian museums. It’s a pretty stunning collection, particularly the sculptures – a giant statue of Hapy, god of the Nile’s flood, opens the exhibition, and later on there’s another pair of giant (i.e over 5m tall) statues, representing a Ptolemaic king and queen; some of the smaller statues are equally impressive, like the beautiful one of Queen Arsinoe II wearing an essentially transparent piece of drapery that shows incredible skill in carving. Continue reading “Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds (review)”