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We are delighted to announce the second seminar in its new series, Lumen Litterarum, a forum for both new and established scholars to present, in Latin or Greek, their work on any subject relating to classical studies. This week’s meeting will provide a rare opportunity to hear a talk in Classical Greek, which will be presented by Oroel Marcuello (Universidad de Zaragoza), on ‘The Fallacy of the Selenites: the dangers of psychological comparison between ancients and moderns’. (Abstract below) The event will take place at 19.00 on Thursday 22 February and will be held exclusively on line; you can join via this link. We hope to see many of you at what promises to be an insightful and entertaining talk! 

The Fallacy of the Selenites: the dangers of psychological comparison between ancients and moderns.

πολλοῖς δὴ διὰ τόδε ἄξιοι σπουδῆς δοκοῦσιν εἶναι οἱ πάλαι γράψαντες, ὅτι καίπερ ἀλλοτρίοις χρώμενοι νόμοις τήν γε ψυχὴν τρόπον τινὰ ἡμῖν ὁμοῖοι πεφύκασιν, ὡς μετεχόμενοι τῆς κοινῆς τῶν ἀνθρώπων φύσεως. Συστενάζομεν γὰρ τῷ Ἀχιλλεῖ, τὴν δὲ Ψαπφὼ ἀναγινώσκοντες ἔρωτι ἐπτοήμεθα. ἡμεῖς δὲ ταῦτα κοινῇ διηγούμενοι, ἐκείνην μὲν τὴν γνώμην ἐλέγξομεν, πόλυ μᾶλλον διὰ τόδε τὴν ἐπιστήμην ταύτην, ἣν ἐπαγγελλόμεθα, ἄξιον τι εἶναι φάσκοντες, τὸ μάλ’ ἀλλοίους πεφυκέναι τοὺς ἀρχαίους τῶν νῦν. Πορθμευόμενοι δ’ οὖν ὥσπερ κατὰ Στυγὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ Πλουτάρχου περὶ τῶν τὴν σελήνην κατοικούντων συγγεγραφότος, λόγους ἀναγνωσόμεθα τῆς τε Ψαπφοῦς καὶ τοῦ Λόγγου καὶ ἔτι τοῦ Ἀρτεμιδώρου, ὡς θαυμαζόμενοι τὰς πάνυ διαφόρας τῶν ἀρχαίων ψυχάς.

It is a commonplace that the value of classical texts lies in part in some fundamental affinity between ancient writers and us, imputable to universal features of the human psyche: we grieve with Achilles, and fall in love reading Sappho. In this seminar, however, we will resist this notion, arguing rather that our discipline derives its worth from the radical otherness of the ancients. Plutarch will be our Charon, and we will start this journey with his text on the Selenites, continuing with passages from Sappho, Longus and Artemidorus, which underline the striking foreignness of ancient minds.

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