Dear Neville,

I read Jenkyns’ review of your book.  I’m sorry, but not surprised.   Classics is a discipline that likes to police its members.  I have often wanted to break up with Classics.  I never describe myself as such.  I’m a Roman Historian and Numismatist who knows a think or two about the Hellenistic World and a little of what came earlier and later.  I’ve never paid dues to a professional organization with Classics in its name.   I wish I could write half as well as Josephine Quinn on why Classics is the wrong name for what we do.

I linger in my relationship with Classics in respect for my students and colleagues who remain attached to that disciplinary framing.  (I do fantasize of being poached by a History department from time to time though!)  I don’t want to (ab)use my white tenured privilege to flee the problems of the discipline when there is good work being done by the Sportula and Eos and others to show that Classics can be something different and better than it has been.  Maybe I need to stick around to aid and amplify the restorative justice work that needs doing, as best I’m able.

The reason I found Jenkyns review so disheartening is its publication on a platform designed to expand access to Latin and Greek, particularly in State Schools (= Public Schools to American readers).   In May 2016 I volunteered to be on a lunch time round table panel about Diversity and Ancient History in the classroom at a professional meeting.  It was organized by a graduate student, a person of color.   But no one else volunteered and I ended up giving an hour long talk on the subject to a packed room.  All I did was share something of how I teach gen ed courses at Brooklyn College and how I tie the material into the contemporary lived experience of my students.  Everyone was enthusiastic and kind in the group context.   The ‘kindness’ remained after the session but the comments changed.

The most common follow up statement I heard after the session was some version of “how interesting, but my students aren’t like your students, so it isn’t really applicable at my institution…”  The problematic implication being that nice middle class white ‘kids’ (because white people remain children even in college and perhaps into their 40s and 50s and beyond) don’t require a type of ancient history that considers matters of ethnicity, race, class, social justice, and historical abuses of power.

I wish I had known how to respond in the moment.

Far worse were the two senior eminent (white) scholars who privately and separately took me a aside to ‘gently’ explain I was doing it wrong.  “Greek and Roman literature isn’t Caribbean literature”, one told me.  I needed to make clear to my student population of primarily first generation Americans what they and all of us ‘owed’ to Greece and Rome and their gifts to humanity.  That it was impossible to learn the same lessons by studying other cultures, places, and periods, because the legacy of Greece and Rome was fundamentally not just more powerful, but also better and more beneficial.

The use of Caribbean literature as the example of choice by way of negative contrast displayed a deeply racialized thought-process.  The message I heard was that it was my job if I had such students (students of color, that is) to teach them why they ought to be grateful to European (white) civilization.  I felt cast into a colonial or imperialist missionary role.

The conversation with the other senior scholar, male this time, wasn’t quite so awful, but largely because I’d already been through the first one, and secondly senior white men tend to take a paternalistic tone when schooling junior white women.  Senior white women are, in my experience, far more direct.  He said much the same–leaving out disparaging comparisons to other cultures and their literatures–that Greece and Rome were different, more special, more worthy of a study.  I was going too far in suggesting we were one among many histories.  The Canon matters.

The graduate student who organized the event has left the field.

I think twice about these types of events now.   I listen harder when junior colleagues, especially colleagues of color share their own experiences of being policed.  It is way worse for them than I.  I don’t ask lightly for anyone to step into the fray and speak truth to power.

I am agnostic on the value of preserving Classics are a discipline under that name.  I am thus a crappy advocate for the field and would not place myself in such a role.   What matters most to me is how I hear my students and former students saying:

“These texts, these images, these histories, these landscapes, they resonate with me!”

What I try to say to them is:

“YES this gives me pleasure too! What do you see that I do not yet see?  Why do you think they resonate for you?  I see more when I look at the contemporary world when I bring my knowledge of the Classical past to it.”

AND, I’m not afraid to say that a big part of that past includes atrocious abuses of power.

We’ve not even gotten started cataloguing abuses of the discipline.  Pharos is trying to give us a modern baseline going forward but we’ve got centuries of crimes to face as well.

What scares me most about a review like Jenkyns is not the attempt to decentralize the analysis of abuses of power from any conversation on the future of the discipline.  That’s fine, I, you, others even smarter and more driven than us will continue that work, fueled by our frustrations and sense of justice.  The work will get done.

What really scares me is that it seeks to narrow the definition of what Classics might be and it does so in a space specifically designed to widen access.

What scares me is how I am reminded of the exhausting work of trying to say something positive only to be policed by our colleagues for not doing it right.  If you (an eminent scholar in your own right!) will be so critiqued in such a forum, where is it safe for other voices to emerge?

Frankly, I don’t actually care what Jenkyns thinks of your book.  I want to know if it resonates with graduate students from diverse backgrounds, from contingent faculty, from those who have left the field to find more meaningful work for themselves elsewhere, for those teaching in underfunded institutions.

Time is short, the useful review is one that tells me if I dare set it to my students or if they will roll their eyes, and shrug that I think it represents a way forward in a fraught and problematic discipline.

Respectfully yours,


P.S. Enjoy your work in the garden! And Theocritus 15 is one of my favorite texts for use in the undergraduate classroom!  It comes shortly after Lysistrata and excerpts of the Armenian version of the Alexander Romance and is paired with 17, and helps in the set up for Juvenal 10.

P.P.S.  I guess I better buy your book.

P.P.S. This post is getting a good deal of traffic.  Please consider giving to the Sportula.  The Sportula is a small group of Classics grad students who pooled their money to provide microgrants of $5-300 to undergrads with unexpected financial need.  These studnents are true future of our discipline.


Preparing for an Archival Dive…

I’m off tomorrow after the last day of classes to UTAustin to visit the Organizational records of the British-owned Saint John d’El Rey (São João d’el Rey) Mining Company in Minas Gerais, Brazil on deposit in Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.

I’m very excited.  The goal is to learn more about the production and use of this slave medal. This blog post is preparatory work to make sure I see what I want to see in the archives.

I’m going to start with the Annual Reports and Minutes skimming from the beginning but focusing in on 1848….

shelved materials

Letters book, 1830 May-1832 November

Letters book, 1843 April-1846 October

Regulations of the Company, 1884

Annual Reports (also in boxes unbound)

Ledgers, 1830-1846

Abstract of Title Deeds, 1834 and 1858

Register of shareholders, 1858-1886

A No.1, 1858-1888

B No.1, 1858-1873

B No.2, 1873-1886

Minute Books, 1830-1954, undated

Minute Book No.1, 1830-1840

Minute Book No.2, 1840-1851

Minute Book No.3, 1852-1863

Minute Book No.4, 1864-1883

Minute Book No.5, 1883-1888

Minute Book No.1, 1887-1907

Boxed Materials

box    folder

1   1      Reprinted letters and extracts regarding Emancipation, circa 1870s-1880s

27  6     General correspondence, Morro Velho, 1867-1868, 1936, 1960

27   7     Correspondence regarding fire at Morro Velho, 1867 November-1868 January

 120  3   Printed Materials, 1835-1885

4                                                    Morro Velho Archives Documents and Notes, 1888-1972

120                      11                         Misc., undated

120             13               Borges Taviera & Co., 1864

121.122,123                           Unbound Annual Reports of the Directors, 1831-1984

132                        Half Yearly Reports, 1862-1985

1                Half Yearly Reports, 1862-1867

2                Half Yearly Reports, 1868-1875

3                Half Yearly Reports, 1876-1880

4                Half Yearly Reports, 1881-1886

5                Half Yearly Reports, 1887-1893

6                Half Yearly Reports, 1894-1896

7                Half Yearly Reports, 1897-1899

133          9           Superintendent’s Annual Report, 1848

134    1                   Circulars, 1850

2                   Report to the Board of Directors by W.B. Pascoe, 1881

3                   Representacao, 1885-1886

4                   Memorandum by the Company, 1881

7                   Report of Select Committee, Morro Velho Mine, 1837

8                   Insurance Co’s, 1949-1950

9                   Regulations of the Company, undated

217/3       Register of shareholders, 1858-1886

A No.1, 1858-1888

B No.1, 1858-1873

B No.2, 1873-1886

221                      Articles of association and company regulations

Articles of association, 1862-1886, 1908-1917

6                                                        Articles of Association, 1862 July-1886

7                                                        Articles of Association, 1862 July-1886

222    1                                                        Articles of Association, 1862-1886

2                                                        Articles of Association, 1862-1886

224         Memorandum and Articles of Association, The Companies Acts, 1862-1888

1   Articles of Association, undated

2   Memorandum of Association, 1862-1883

3   Memorandum and Articles of Association, 1888

4   Memorandum and Articles of Association Index, 1862-1886

5   Resolutions, Memorandum of Association, Articles of Ageement, undated

Leases, contracts and legal documents, 1830-1956

Lease of the mines of São João d’el Rey and San José, 1830

6   Lease of San Joao d’el Rey and San Jose Mine, undated

Contract for the mines of São João d’el Rey and San José, 1830

7   Contract for the Mines of San Joao d’el Rey and San Jose, 1830

Particulars & Conditions of Sale of “St. Peter’s Wharf”, 1859

8   Particulars and Conditions of Sale, 1859

Draft Lease of ship-building yard and premises at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1866

9   Draft Lease and Trust Deed, 1866

225       Titles and Deeds, undated

1   Sale of Company’s Houses, undated

2   Re: Properties List of Titles and Deeds, undated

3   Report on Titles: Dr. Torres Report, undated

4   Appointment of new trustees for the super-annuation fund (trust deeds), undated

Fire and riot insurance at Morro Velho, undated

5   Fire and Riot Insurance at Morro Velho, undated

6   Fire and Riot Insurance at Morro Velho, undated

7   Fire and Riot Insurance at Morro Velho, undated

8   Insurance Policies (bound), undated

Correspondence about Investments, undated

9   Bank of England: U.K. overseas Investments, undated

262   1               Workmen’s Compensation for Silicosis, 1937

2               Silicosis Pneumokoniosis and Dust Supression in Mine’s, 1947 April

3               Higiene das Minas de Ouro Silicose, 1940

276   1               Wooden Medallions: Malcolm Alfred M’Call and Henry Percy Harris


Evidence on the Settlers of Neapolis

Just trying to keep my sources straight and working through Lomas’ footnotes.

Basic Strabo and Livy Passages (for once my own translations; follow links for other people’s translations):

Cumis erant oriundi; Cumani Chalcide Euboica originem trahunt. Classe, qua advecti ab domo fuerant, multum in ora maris eius quod accolunt potuere, primo [in] insulas Aenariam et Pithecusas egressi, deinde in continentem ausi sedes transferre.

They originated in Cumae, and the Cumani came originally from Chalcis in Euboea. My means of the fleet, in which they had travelled from home, the possess great power over the shore of the sea where they reside, first they took the islands of Aenaria and Pithacusa, then they ventured to transfer their base to the mainland.

Μετὰ δὲ Δικαιάρχειάν ἐστι Νεάπολις Κυμαίων ὕστερον δὲ καὶ Χαλκιδεῖς ἐπῴκησαν καὶ Πιθηκουσσαίων τινὲς καὶ Ἀθηναίων, ὥστε καὶ Νεάπολις ἐκλήθη διὰ τοῦτο

After Dicaearchia is Neapolis of the Cumani, later colonized by the Chalcideans and some Pithacussans and Athenians, thus because of this it is called Neapolis.

Other passages:

Strabo 14.2.10 on the Rhodians:  “among the Opici they founded Parthenopê”… notice a whole bunch of other rather outrageous claims and then a mention of Timaeus (not as the source of this particularly, but of their involvement in island foundations, that Strabo dismisses.   Everyone loves to dismiss Timaeus!)



ἄστρον τι κοινὸν τῆς ὅλης οἰκουμένης  cf. Erskine 1994

On Odysseus in Latium see my article on Fides…

Cf. Strabo 6.1.6 Chalcidians as founders of Rhegium as a sort of sacred spring exercise.

Velleius Paterculus 1.4.1-2: The Athenians established colonies at Chalcis and Eretria in Euboea, and the Lacedaemonians the colony of Magnesia in Asia. Not long afterwards, the Chalcidians, who, as I have already said, were of Attic origin, founded Cumae in Italy under the leadership of Hippocles and Megasthenes. According to some accounts the voyage of this fleet was guided by the flight of a dove which flew before it; according to others by the sound at night of a bronze instrument like that which is beaten at the rites of Ceres. At a considerably later period, a portion of the citizens of Cumae founded Naples.  The remarkable and unbroken loyalty to the Romans of both these cities makes them well worthy of their repute and of their charming situation. The Neapolitans, however, continued the careful observance of their ancestral customs; the Cumaeans, on the other hand, were changed in character by the proximity of their Oscan neighbours. The extent of their walls at the present day serves to reveal the greatness of these cities in the past.

Athenienses in Euboea Chalcida <et> Eretriam colonis occupauere, Lacedaemonii in Asia Magnesiam. Nec multo post Chalcidenses orti, ut praediximus, Atticis, Hippocle et Megasthene ducibus, Cumas in Italia condiderunt. Huius classis cursum esse directum alii columbae antecedentis uolatu ferunt, alii nocturno aeris sono, qualis Cerealibus sacris cieri solet.  Pars horum ciuium, magno post interuallo, Neapolim condidit. Vtriusque urbis eximia semper in Romanos fides facit eas nobilitate atque amoenitate sua dignissimas. Sed illis diligentior ritus patrii mansit custodia, Cumanos Osca mutauit uicinia. Vires autem ueteres earum urbium hodieque magnitudo ostentat moenium.   

On this last and the connection to Pseudo-Symnos above, see Malkin.

Types of the First Punic War?!



Most of the Carthaginian Elephants were captured by the Romans in Sicily (Polybius 1.19.11)

the whole island was said to be sacred to Demeter and Kore (Diod. 5.2.3; Cic. Verr. 2.4.106)

Pigs are symbolic of the worship of Demeter…

Sicilo-Punic Reverse Type from time of 1st Punic War:


RRC 4/1


This helps explain the common metallurgical profile of these bars and other bars with Naval imagery that are strongly associated with the 1st Punic War…..