Archive for the ‘classics’ Category

In the wake of getting my degree results (yes I’m still pleased as punch about them) I decided to start researching the options for learning Latin and ancient Greek because if I want to do a MA then I’ll need to have languages. If I wasn’t about to have me some babies then I’d be getting a job to pay for language classes at one of the local universities, and contemplating a post-bac. But hey, who says I can’t have me some babies and learn me some dead languages I just need to be a little bit more creative. Think outside of Pandora’s Box.

I thought I’d found this great distance learning program where I could work towards a diploma in Latin and ancient Greek whilst being at home and juggling everything else. But, this week I got confirmation of the fees and it made me sad. They charge the same price for distance learning students as for those attending in-person, and because I’m technically “overseas” (though if you are distance learning does location really matter?) so I would have to pay the higher rate. I don’t think so.

I did a bit of crowd sourcing via Twitter, and came up with some teach yourself Latin options which I reckoned combined with some intensive summer language courses might be the best option for me at this time. Who knows how much time I’ll have or if I have any talent for languages so this is a low cost way to dip my toe in the water and keep my brain ticking over.

So, the books I’m looking at are the Cambridge Latin Course, Wheelock’s Latin (available for Kindle) and Complete Latin: A Teach Yourself Guide. I’m swaying towards Complete Latin at the moment as I’ve read such good things about it, and I’ll probably pull the trigger on ordering it tomorrow (that and a bath mat as someone is worried about me slipping in the shower).

I got my exam results a few weeks ago and I tweeted, IM’d, FaceTimed, emailed and FaceBook’d – hell I even went on LinkedIn! But what I haven’t done so far is blog or had a full on celebratory meal as there is a bit too much going on at the moment and I’m on a restricted diet.

I did really well in my May exams, and I am graduating with an upper second honors degree in Classical Studies. This means dyslexic Cinderella can apply for graduate school in the future – not right now obviously.  I am really really happy. It’s been a hard slog (six years and five of them working full time) but I got there in the end, and it’s worth saying a few thank yous as I would never have got here without some amazing support.

Thank you Alex for supporting me on this crazy journey. For allowing me to ignore you for significant chunks of the year, for high jacking our vacations and forcing you to look at Roman ruins or dragging you around museums or for the infamous hike up Vesuvius in 100F weather. But at least you have a good grasp of Greek and Roman history and art now; and just as an aside thank you for not balking when I announced that I was planning on learning Latin and teaching it to the Cylons.

Thank you Mum for encouraging (if not enabling) my love of all things classical over the years. For looking after me when I would rock up to London every May to sit my exams and took over your spare room. For bringing me endless cups of decaf tea and snacks. For driving miles for me to pick up a flat white (possibly the greatest coffee ever). For going to study days at the British Museum, and hit or miss productions of Greek tragedy and comedy (more hit than miss) all over the UK. And thank you for offering to learn Latin so that I could practice by emailing you.

Thank you Stephen for being a great friend as we both persevered through the uncharted territories of the Virtual Learning Environment and experienced a wide range of tutor support (the good, the bad and the one who was based in the middle of nowheresville China with no access to the internet). Distance learning can be lonely but knowing someone made it much more fun, and now we can both graduate and wear tweed with pride!

Thank you to the amazing tutors that I had over the years. Those like Dr. Joanne Berry, Dr. James Tuck and Dr. Sharon Shellock who went beyond the parameters that were laid out for online tutors.

Thank you to my Dad for always being willing to meet me for a post-exam coffee at The British Museum, and to Beverly at the Adult Education College in Bexley who way back in early 2003/4 accommodated me as an external student in sitting A-levels so I could test the water for going back to school.

Thank you one and all!

seven days

Posted: 07/19/2011 in classics, studying

That’s how long I have to wait till I get my final exam results. Eeeekkkk. And, I realized this morning that it’s also my one year anniversary for handing in my notice, and leaving the job that very nearly finished me off. I am trying to workout if this makes it an auspicious day or not.

It’s been quite a year, and I am excited (and sad) to be finally putting the Classical Studies degree to bed, and thanks to impending twin parenthood my plans for the next few years are a little bit more up in the air. As Alex pointed out I will have new responsibilities that will take priority (and these Cylons better be cute to make all this worthwhile), and it would be great if in year I could have figured out something I could do from home to bring in an additional income.  To keep my hand in so to speak.

I would still love to do a Classics MA (and I’m getting quite into sociology) but I don’t really want to rack up debt unless it’s going to lead to a real career change. If I’m doing it for my ego and the joy of learning then I might as well look to a distance MA that is cost effective, and balances better with family life.

Ideally, I want to be able to be at home for as long as possible but I also want to be able to re-enter the job market with skills that are going to be relevant but I also want to make sure that my next career is something that I really enjoy as I’ll probably be doing it for a really long time. Everything just got a lot more complicated but wonderful at the same time. Fun times ahead, and lots of things still to be learnt.

London Bound

Posted: 05/03/2011 in classics

I fly to London tonight so I can sit my final exams for the BA in Classical Studies I’ve been toiling over for the last six years. I think everyone in my immediate sphere will be very happy when this last clutch of exams are over. The courses have been very tough this year, and my on-going struggle with imperial fraking epic ended in abandonment on Sunday when I decided to play the odds and only focus on revising my old friends Tacitus and Pliny. Their set texts for this course are pleasantly short, and not as cryptic as fraking Lucan et al. The Roman history and literature exam is on Thursday morning, and then I have until Monday and Tuesday to cram for Greek Drama and Women in Antiquity, respectively.  Needless to say, I will be very happy when this is all over and I can start to enjoy the summer, get my life back and not have to throw Alex withering glances when he dares to suggest that we go out at the weekend.

My Twitter feed is chock full of tweets about the Virgin London Marathon that is happening today in.. duh.. London, and it reminded me that this time last year I was there. It wasn’t the weekend of the marathon but it was the weekend of the volcanic ash cloud craziness. The Icelandic volcano kicked off on the Thursday and it  grounded flights right, left and center. I’d been in London that week for a series of meetings with my (now ex-) company and our entire global team was stranded there. It was a very odd time. There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. I made the decision to stay in London since I was due to fly back over at the end of April and given that I could stay with family so I wasn’t running up a hotel bill and I got a refund on my personal flight so it was a win-win for me. As it turned out everyone flew out within a week or so of the volcanoes initial explosion but it was an odd situation to be in. I think it was the uncertainty that flummoxed everyone.

April is always a fraught month for me, volcano or no volcano, as it signifies the lead up to my exams. The juggling of day job and studying comes to a head and leaves me with stress dreams, an uncontrollable blinking eye and a heart that feels like it is going to burst out of my chest at any moment. Things are a little different this April as I am minus the day job but with three final exams to prep for I feel like I have too much stuff going on in  my head. Thankfully there is some cross over between Greek Drama, Women in Antiquity, and Nero to Hadrian. Yesterday I managed to wade through The Aeneid (one of my many bete noirs) and I am actually feeling excited about re-tackling Lucan’s Civil War on Monday. Imperial epics are probably the toughest thing I’ve had to study as they purposefully set out to be disjointed and fucked-up texts. Going forward I’ve decided to think of them as Klingon epics as they might be easier to make sense of with a couple of glasses of blood wine.


I love Clytemnestra. Not the Clytemnestra of Homer’s The Odyssey but Aeschylus’ Clytemnestra as they have different motivations. In the age of disposable daughters Clytemnestra stands out by seeking revenge on her husband, Agamemnon, for sacrificing their daughter Iphigenia in order to get a change of weather so he could sail to Troy to whoop some Trojan ass. To make matters worse Agamemnon had lured his daughter to the island where his fleets were stranded on the promise of getting to marry Brad Pitt Achilles.

Clytemnestra is by no means perfect, and her fixation on Iphigenia turns her into one of those Lifetime movie mothers who neglect their living children for the dead. In her husband’s absence she takes over the palace and takes a lover, when Agamemnon returns she murders him and his slave lover, exiles her son Orestes and neglects her daughter Electra.  In my favorite scene she calls for her “man killing axe” to defend herself against her son who has returned home to take revenge on her mother for killing his father (in revenge Top Trumps father trumps sister).


On paper Medea is not a very good mother as she does killing her children (and her husband’s trophy wife-to-be and father-in-law-to-be) after a hissy fit with her husband Jason (he of Argonaut fame) however she is something of an anomaly which is intriguing. Unlike other women in Greek mythology who (accidentally or not) embark on a killing spree she does not die. There is no “honorable” suicide, or an opportunity for Jason to get his revenge she sets up her escape route prior to her murderous acts. She high tails it out of town and off to safety of Athens where she has been granted shelter and protection by the king. I am not sure if I am sympathetic to Medea’s plight (why could she have not taken her children to Athens with her or is she really that vindictive against Jason) but there is something about the traditionally powerless spouse taking control. However, horrific the outcome.


For me Hecuba’s defining characteristic is her dignity, and she retains it through her trials. By the end of the Trojan War she has lost everything is reduced to living as a slave in the Greek encampment. In Euripides’ Hecuba she is left holding out hope for remaining son, Polydorus, (exiled for his safety with a friend) and two daughters, Cassandra and Polyxena. Cassandra has been cursed by Apollo is marked as Agamemnon’s future slave lover (and is later murder by Cytemnestra), Polyxena is chosen to be sacrificed in honor of Achilles funeral and then Polydorus body washes up on shore having been murdered for his gold by the family friend who was meant to protect him. Poor old Hecuba. But she does not sit idly by she decides to take revenge on the “friend” who murdered her son (kills his children and blinds him) but first she explains the situation to Agamemnon. She is almost getting permission for her actions ahead of time, and he agrees to her course of action. This is a woman at the end of her tether but she holds it together enough to act in a rational manner. 


Tecmessa is something of a new heroine for me since I read Sophocles’ Ajax last year. I really enjoyed the play – it’s the deception and the sheep guts that get me every time. Tecmessa is Ajax’s spear bride. She has an incredibly tenuous position with in her adopted society. Without Ajax she is nothing, and when he talks of killing himself to regain his honor that is the argument that she puts to him. What will happen to her and his son when he is gone? Whilst he makes plans for his son he doesn’t leave instruction for Tecmessa (Heracles at least forced his son to marry his spear bride on his death bed), and it’s heartbreaking as she has been so loyal to him.

Where oh where has the week gone? Suddenly it is Saturday afternoon and I find myself in a Malaysian restaurant in Hoboken. My first proper trip out in a week, and there were shrimp dumplings and tofu to celebrate. I’ve been under virtual house arrest studying all week so every day ran into each other. No lunches in the city, trips to the grocery store or sessions at the gym to break things up. It was my most pathetic foursquare week ever. Even Alex working from home on Friday because of the snow didn’t disrupt. We both sat in front of our laptops typing away, ignoring each other as we are dedicated to our respective causes.

That being said, I got a lot of studying done, and feel like I am starting to climb the mountain that is my humongous to-do list. I am somewhere around base camp at the moment but I’ve got my crampons and a rucksack full of Kendal mint cake so I am good to go. I’ve been reading Pliny the Younger’s letters – specifically the ones about his houses. Back in the day he didn’t have the benefit of MTV Cribs in order to show-off his properties, and since they were some distance from Rome he had to rely on correspondence to spread the word about his snazzy dining room with a pool in it so food could float towards his guests. It would appear that Romans are as lazy as New Yorkers when it comes to going anywhere above 59th Street (I am sorry the Upper what?). All this reading about lush villas and neglecting my foursquare account got me thinking about Romans and social media. Given how much Roman life relied on (and relished) self-promotion I think they’d have enjoyed Twitter and FaceBook but I reckon that foursquare would have been pretty dangerous.

Sure it would have been fun at first. Everyone checking into the Senate, temples or their patron’s house. Vying to become mayor. The excitement of a shiny new toy to highlight how important and cool you are by where you have been, and badges to collect! There so would have been a ‘Crossed the Rubicon’, ‘Britannia 4 Life’ and ‘I’m on a boat & not coming back because I’ve been sold into slavery!’. But, things would get bloody. There would be generals invading Gaul just to get the ‘Marauders’ badge. Suddenly foursquare rewards would rival a triumph or war loot. Imagine a prominent politician not being the mayor of his own home. Some underling who visited his house regularly stealing it. Oh the shame.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that Pliny didn’t have access to modern social media tools as he would have been an oversharer, and I’d have even more things to read.