The Adventures in Classics Continue

I haven’t written since October 2016, which is around the time that I was filling out grad school applications and trying to keep up with my schoolwork. I didn’t have much time for writing blog posts. However, much has happened since then and I am excited to say that my adventures in the classical world will continue. I applied to 4 graduate programs last semester, and heard back from my first-choice school in mid-January. I’ve been offered a fellowship to attend a PhD program at the University of California Santa Barbara, which I accepted as soon as I possibly could. I haven’t heard back from the other 3 schools yet, but I know what my response to them will be.

In the meantime, I presented at the last conference of my undergraduate career. I presented my old paper on Thucydides and Counterfactuals. My presentation went well, and I enjoyed meeting some colleagues in classical scholarship.

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                                        Presenting at the AIA/SCS conference in Toronto, ON

The conference was very fun, for the brief time I was there. I also had the chance to meet a professor from UCSB, which was a great privilege.

Since then, I have returned to my soon-to-be alma mater, where I hack tirelessly away at my Latin and Greek, and start thinking about the next leg of my journey into classics.

It is really helpful to know that I have my next steps more-or-less figured out. The only thing that daunts me now is simply that it will be very different from being an undergraduate. But I look forward to learning even more and gaining even more skill in the languages.

I am fairly certain at this point that my focus will be historiography and narratology, because I find those areas and their intersection fascinating and I also believe there is more work to be done there. In preparation for that, I have been reading Herodotus and Thucydides on my own, trying to gain as much familiarity with those texts as I can before I begin working on them as my career focus.

There’s a lot to do, and I am very excited to get started. I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring!

 

 

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Herodotus on the Flooding of the Nile

I haven’t written in a while, but I hope to be able to post more often in the coming year. Most of my posts will probably be like this one: a (hopefully) humorous and slightly informative blurb about something in my reading or research that I find amusing or curious. I’ve been working on Herodotus since last semester, and have read a sizable chunk of Book 1 in the original; this semester, I’m reading Book 2 for my Greek seminar.

One of the more amusing bits of Herodotus Book 2 is his description of Egypt and the Nile, particularly all the contemporary theories on why the Nile floods every year.

He describes what he thinks are a few preposterous theories about why it floods, and then shares his own theory.

Theory #1 is that somehow the winds blow the water around, pushing it down such that it floods the Nile valley. This is silly because the Nile doesn’t seem to have winds blowing off it, and other rivers do not experience this sort of thing at all.

Theory #2 is that Oceanus, the great river that flows all around the world somehow causes the Nile to flood. Herodotus does not elaborate on how that might be possible.

Theory #3 (and the silliest of all the theories, according to Herodotus) is that it is caused by melting snow that comes down from the lands in the South. Herodotus thinks this is ridiculous because the land to the south of Egypt are blazing hot, and how could it possibly snow in places that are even hotter than Egypt? Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?

Herodotus’ own theory about the flooding in the Nile probably seems perfectly plausible, since the logic of theory #2 is clearly unsound. His theory is that the sun gets blown off course by storms, and travels further inland and sucks up all of the water into itself. And then, when it has sucked up all the water from the ground, when it gets back onto its usual course, it dumps all the water into the Nile, causing it to flood.

This is probably a pretty good vignette for Herodotean methods of inquiry, and reminds us all why we don’t read Herodotus for accurate information. Herodotus is perfectly correct about many things, but he has become notorious for the things he was dead wrong about.

We read Herodotus as an artifact of his culture, and subject everything he wrote to strict scrutiny whenever possible, whether it be archaeological evidence or written evidence from inscriptions or other authors. Despite being useless, as you might think, it reveals far deeper truths about Greek culture and literature than meets the eye, even though the surface content often seems dubious. We can learn more about Greek culture from the details, and plenty about the Greek language from the writing and the style. We learn far more than Herodotus ever imagined, I think.