Author Archives: Jane Mason

Sulpicia IV: On Adultery

The fourth poem in what survives of Sulpicia’s corpus, this direct and scornful reproach of Cerinthus’ adultery is the voice of a strong-willed, emotionally autonomous Roman woman. Drawing attention to her own birth (‘Servi filia Sulpicia’ – Sulpicia, daugher of Servius), she denounces Cerinthus’ pursuit of girls who demand no respect: those wearing the common […]

de rerum natura 1.62-79: Lucretius’ devotion to Epicurus

This famous passage from the first book of Lucretius’ de rerum natura is that in which Lucretius describes the philosophical feat of Epicureanism. The eminently spatial description of this epistemic mission is, for me, what makes the passage such a striking one. In the following five books, Lucretius will construct one of the most ambitious […]

Catullus 101: A fraternal farewell

Here, Catullus provides a glimpse of tender sincerity as he bids farewell to his brother. Having travelled far and wide to be at the funeral, Catullus honours his brother with the traditional funeral rites. The poignant ‘ave atque vale’ (hail and farewell) adds a particularly resonant conclusion to a poem of such intense emotion. For […]

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 […]