Author Archives: Steve Jenkin

Virgil Aeneid 9.420- 449 (contributed by Jane Mason and GCSE Latin students (aged 15))

This passage shows so well the senseless violence of war and its brutal destruction of life’s fragile beauty. But it also portrays the immortality of self-sacrifice, heroism and above all, love. The poppy simile recalls the battlefields of the First World War where so many young men, were cut down in the flower of youth. […]

Hesiod ‘Works and Days’ 54-105 (Contributed by Emanuele Pezzani)

This is Hesiod’s account of Pandora’s myth in the Works and Days and there is barely a mention of the famous jar, a story which he had previously told in the Theogony. The whole passage carries an unusual, Archaic vigour, in Zeus’s ominous words and laugh, in the long list of gods who provide Pandora […]

Catullus, Poem 86 (Contributed by Terry Walsh)

It has been thought that ‘Lesbia’ is a construct, or even a figment of the poet’s imagination. This poem, I think, proves that the love affair was a real one, since the feelings forcefully expressed here are surely real. The concept of beauty expressed here is quite modern – and refreshing. Beauty is not skin-deep, […]

Horace, Odes 3.30 (contributed by Terry Walsh)

Horace’s sphragis or sign-off poem to the first three books of his Odes. The poem has a stately simplicity about it, which perhaps derives from the run of adynata in the first five lines. Otherwise, the poem is full of I and me, the signs of a proud boast which Horace diverts at the end […]

Homer, Odyssey 9.82-105 (contributed by Amanda Waters)

As an AS level student who studied Greek to GCSE, it was very gratifying when my knowledge of Greek helped me to understand the poetry unit of my English AS. The poem we were discussing in class was Tennyson’s Lotos Eaters poem, based of course on the Odyssey. By studying the original Greek text I […]

Catullus, Poem 5 (Contributed by Jane Mason)

As a teenager who had only studied Virgil so far, it came as an enormous surprise when a teacher, whom we had believed to be very straight-laced, set this poem as an unseen passage! I have loved it ever since – it is funny, flippant but poignant and heartfelt at the same time. It comes […]

Catullus, Poem 85 (Contributed by Jane Mason)

Catullus’ two line epigram is justly famous, summing up the bitterness and confused emotions of a betrayed lover. 40 years later the themes of elegaic love poetry, which Catullus first put into Latin, writing from his own raw emotions, had become a literary art form. In the Amores Ovid explores its possibilities from every angle, […]

Pindar, Pythian 8.88-100 (Contributed by Chris Childers)

Written for Aristomenes of Aegina, victor in the wrestling competition in 446 BC, this is the latest of Pindar’s datable odes. It is also widely considered his darkest: the aging poet, so the theory goes, depressed by thoughts of his own mortality, just couldn’t summon up an appropriately triumphal celebration–think of Mozart in the valley […]

Pindar, Pythian 1.1-12 (Chosen by Chris Childers)

One of Pindar’s grandest odes, the First Pythian celebrates Hieron of Syracuse’s chariot victory of 470 and his founding of the city of Aetna in 476/5 within a broader context of Pan-Hellenic peace, thanks to strong leadership within and victory over barbarian invaders. Just as, after the defeat of the forces of Chaos, order reigns […]

Homer Odyssey 9.355-370, 403-414 (contributed by Jane Mason)

I love this story: the way they both try to trick each other, the baffled and callous response of the other Cyclopes, but especially the word play! The confusion between ‘Nobody’ and ‘no-one’ works well in translation but the last line reveals another, untranslatable level of complexity in the pun since μῆτις (cunning) has the […]