October 8, 2011

Classics in Discussion

Tags: History, Podcasts

Available from iTunes or Warwick University Podcasts

This series provides a brief introduction to a number of current topics researched or studied in the Classics department at Warwick University. The 10 audio-only podcasts are in the format of an interview discussing the topic at hand. Episodes range in length from 21 to 36 minutes. The production quality is generally good, although on the “Graeco-Arabic Studies” episode the audio cuts outs a couple of times. One of the episodes, “The Golden Age of Islam”, is in Arabic so I was unable to understand it.

The podcasts range across a number of disparate topics. There is a discussion of Numismatics - which for classical studies effectively means coins. Coinage was first minted in Lydia (in modern day Turkey) around 650BC, and spread quickly. Coins were traditionally made from valuable metals (gold and silver). However to be able to mint more money, the coins were regularly debased. During the 3rd century AD the denarius went from being 50% silver to 1.5% silver. Another podcast (Medicine and Classicism in a Comparative Perspective) looks at how medicine claims classic roots in ancient works and commentaries, like those of Hippocrates and Galen. Apparently Indian and Chinese medicine have similar traditions. Old classical medical books (and alchemy texts) were among the first texts translated into Arabic as the classical world collapsed, as stated in the Graeco-Arabic Studies podcast.

A quip during Drinking Parties in Ancient Greece podcast proposes that classics is really just the history of drinking. This episode describes the Symposium; drinking parties in ancient Greece. Apparently the dancing girls were regularly in danger of being groped. The Sex in the Ancient World episode suggests such dancers must have been disreputable women, as higher class Greek women were neither heard nor seen. Homosexuality in ancient Greek society is also mentioned. There is some debate as to whether the pederastic relationship in ancient Greece was considered homosexual in the way we understand it today or just a traditional cultural institution.

Other episodes deal with the role of logic in the renaissance; Roman elegiac poetry; and epic poetry (subtitled “Homer to Virgil”, it could be retitled “Homer and Virgil” as these are the only two poets mentioned). There is also a short biography of Augustus while discussing his autobiographical mausoleum inscription, referred to as the Queen of Inscriptions. Apparently the original is now lost, but three copies exist in modern Turkey.