Author Archives: Jane Mason

Catullus IIa: Lesbia’s Sparrow

Here, Catullus considers Lesbia’s pet sparrow in a playful and charming poem. In true Catullan style, there is an acute corporeal focus at the start of the poem, with a decidedly erotic description of Lesbia’s play with her pet bird. Indeed, it has been suggested that passer (sparrow) might be directly representative of the genitalia […]

Women who hate, women who kill: 1. Clytemnestra – Agamemnon 1372-1398

Once he was back from the Trojan war, Clytemnestra killed her husband Agamemnon. Some years before, she exiled (or, according to another version of the myth, failed to kill her son) Orestes, born from their union.”Nothing else is more dreadful and more horrible than a woman who puts such deeds into her heart”, says the […]

An emotional encounter between Cicero and Brutus at Velia – Philippics 1.8-9

After the assassination of Caesar, there was a breakdown of law and order and Cicero had left Rome. However he then received news that encouraged him to return. Upon his return he delivered the series of speeches reviling Mark Anthony, (confusingly called the Philippics, in reference to  a similar series of speeches at Athens by […]

Aeneid 4: 120-127 and 160-172: Scene – A Cave

Virgil is SO lazy… At Aeneid 4.124 and 165 he even repeats the same line, with just the subtlest variation: the verb that completes the sense in the following line is in the future tense at 124 (as Juno predicts how she will bring Dido and Aeneas together) and present at 165 when the narrator […]

‘The need for non-violent gadflies’- Apology 30d-31e (Martin Luther King)

LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL April 16, 1963 MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN: ….Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for […]

Everyone desires the good – Meno 77c-78b (contributed by Jane Mason)

This short piece of argument is set within the larger question debated by the Meno – what is virtue and can it be taught? Meno presents a series of definitions of virtue, which Socrates demolishes, and this passage begins with one of them. The philosophical issues and questions raised by this passage are fascinating and […]

Endlessness – Homer, Ibycus, Cicero, Leopardi (Contributed by Cristina Lofaro)

These passages explain the feelings of the four poets dealing with what is endless, impossible to reach, and for man to understand in depth. In the Greek and Latin extracts, the authors make the reader reflect on the fleetingness of time and life. The brightness of stars contrasting the darkness of the sky aims at […]

Juvenal Satire 1. 1-35 (contributed by Sam Hayes)

Juvenal is one of my favourite Latin authors – he adopts a persona with such vivid anger that it’s hard not to realise that the whole piece is a carefully constructed piece of art, and not the ad lib rantings of an angry poet. One of the reasons I find this section (from the first […]

The Return of Spring – Lucretius, Catullus and Horace (contributed by Viviana La Russa and Simona Borrello)

Lucretius was the first author of Latin literature that dealt with the topòs of “The return of spring” in a passage of his poem “De Rerum Natura” (I vv.250-256). The author describes the landscapes that become green again, the changing weather and the feeling of happiness given by the new season. This theme was resumed […]

Flowing Time – Mimnermus, Seneca and Petrarch (contributed by Domenico Crea)

The three fragments here displayed deal with the theme of the flowing of time. Over the centuries, this theme has become really dear to several poets who, despite their belonging to different historical periods, have shown their feelings and their regret about the brief and fast course of life and about the decay that time […]