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Studies by Time Period > Ancient Studies and Classics

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The Court of Comedy Cover

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The Court of Comedy

Aristophanes, Rhetoric, and Democracy in Fifth-Century Athens

The Court of Comedy: Aristophanes, Rhetoric, and Democracy in Fifth-Century Athens, by Wilfred E. Major, analyzes how writers of comedy in Classical Greece satirized the emerging art of rhetoric and its role in political life. In the fifth century BCE, the development of rhetoric proceeded hand in hand with the growth of democracy both on Sicily and at Athens. In turn, comic playwrights in Athens, most notably Aristophanes, lampooned oratory as part of their commentary on the successes and failures of the young democracy. This innovative study is the first book to survey all the surviving comedy from the fifth century BCE on these important topics. The evidence reveals that Greek comedy provides a revealing commentary on the incipient craft of rhetoric before its formal conventions were stabilized. Furthermore, Aristophanes’ depiction of rhetoric and of Athenian democratic institutions indicates that he fundamentally supports the Athenian democracy and not, as is often argued, oligarchic opposition to it. These conclusions confirm recent work that reinterprets the early development of rhetoric in Classical Greece and offer fresh perspectives on the debate over the role of comedy in early Greek democracy. Throughout, Major capitalizes on recent progress in the understanding of the performance dynamics of Classical Greek theater.

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The Crane's Walk

Plato, Pluralism, and the Inconstancy of Truth

Jeremy Barris

In The Crane's Walk, Jeremy Barris seeks to show that we can conceive and live with a pluralism of standpoints with conflicting standards for truth--with the truth of each being entirely unaffected by the truth of the others. He argues that Plato's work expresses this kind of pluralism, and that this pluralism is important in its own right, whether or not we agree about what Plato's standpoint is.The longest tradition of Plato scholarship identifies crucial faults in Plato's theory of Ideas. Barris argues that Plato deliberately displayed those faults, because he wanted to demonstrate that basic kinds of error or illogic have dimensions that are crucial to the establishing of truth. These dimensions legitimate a paradoxical coordination of logically incompatible conceptions of truth. Connecting this idea with emerging currents of Plato scholarship, he emphasizes, in addition to the dialogues' arguments, the importance of their nonargumentative features, including drama, myths, fictions, anecdotes, and humor. These unanalyzed nonargumentative features function rigorously, as a lever with which to examine the enterprise of rational argument itself, without presupposing its standards or illegitimately assimilating any position to the standards of another.Today, communities are torn apart by conflicts within and between a host of different pluralist and absolutist commitments. The possibility developed in this book-a coordination of absolute and relative truth that allows an understanding of some relativist and some absolutist positions as being fully legitimate and as capable of existing in a relation to their opposites-may contribute to perspectives for resolving these conflicts.

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Creating a Common Polity

Religion, Economy, and Politics in the Making of the Greek Koinon

Emily Mackil

In the ancient Greece of Pericles and Plato, the polis, or city-state, reigned supreme, but by the time of Alexander, nearly half of the mainland Greek city-states had surrendered part of their autonomy to join the larger political entities called koina. In the first book in fifty years to tackle the rise of these so-called Greek federal states, Emily Mackil charts a complex, fascinating map of how shared religious practices and long-standing economic interactions faciliated political cooperation and the emergence of a new kind of state. Mackil provides a detailed historical narrative spanning five centuries to contextualize her analyses, which focus on the three best-attested areas of mainland Greece—Boiotia, Achaia, and Aitolia. The analysis is supported by a dossier of Greek inscriptions, each text accompanied by an English translation and commentary.

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Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity

David Sedley

The world is configured in ways that seem systematically hospitable to life forms, especially the human race. Is this the outcome of divine planning or simply of the laws of physics? Ancient Greeks and Romans famously disagreed on whether the cosmos was the product of design or accident. In this book, David Sedley examines this question and illuminates new historical perspectives on the pantheon of thinkers who laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Versions of what we call the "creationist" option were widely favored by the major thinkers of classical antiquity, including Plato, whose ideas on the subject prepared the ground for Aristotle's celebrated teleology. But Aristotle aligned himself with the anti-creationist lobby, whose most militant members—the atomists—sought to show how a world just like ours would form inevitably by sheer accident, given only the infinity of space and matter. This stimulating study explores seven major thinkers and philosophical movements enmeshed in the debate: Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, the atomists, Aristotle, and the Stoics.

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A Critical History of Early Rome

From Prehistory to the First Punic War

Gary Forsythe

During the period from Rome's Stone Age beginnings on the Tiber River to its conquest of the Italian peninsula in 264 B.C., the Romans in large measure developed the social, political, and military structure that would be the foundation of their spectacular imperial success. In this comprehensive and clearly written account, Gary Forsythe draws extensively from historical, archaeological, linguistic, epigraphic, religious, and legal evidence as he traces Rome's early development within a multicultural environment of Latins, Sabines, Etruscans, Greeks, and Phoenicians. His study charts the development of the classical republican institutions that would eventually enable Rome to create its vast empire, and provides fascinating discussions of topics including Roman prehistory, religion, and language.

In addition to its value as an authoritative synthesis of current research, A Critical History of Early Rome offers a revisionist interpretation of Rome's early history through its innovative use of ancient sources. The history of this period is notoriously difficult to uncover because there are no extant written records, and because the later historiography that affords the only narrative accounts of Rome's early days is shaped by the issues, conflicts, and ways of thinking of its own time. This book provides a groundbreaking examination of those surviving ancient sources in light of their underlying biases, thereby reconstructing early Roman history upon a more solid evidentiary foundation.

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Cut These Words into My Stone

Ancient Greek Epitaphs

translated by Michael Wolfe foreword by Richard P. Martin

Cut These Words into My Stone offers evidence that ancient Greek life was not only celebrated in great heroic epics, but was also commemorated in hundreds of artfully composed verse epitaphs. They have been preserved in anthologies and gleaned from weathered headstones. Three-year-old Archianax, playing near a well, Was drawn down by his own silent reflection. His mother, afraid he had no breath left, Hauled him back up wringing wet. He had a little. He didn't taint the nymphs' deep home. He dozed off in her lap. He's sleeping still. These words, translated from the original Greek by poet and filmmaker Michael Wolfe, mark the passing of a child who died roughly 2,000 years ago. Ancient Greek epitaphs honor the lives, and often describe the deaths, of a rich cross section of Greek society, including people of all ages and classes— paupers, fishermen, tyrants, virgins, drunks, foot soldiers, generals—and some non-people—horses, dolphins, and insects. With brief commentary and notes, this bilingual collection of 127 short, witty, and often tender epigrams spans 1,000 years of the written word. Cut These Words into My Stone provides an engaging introduction to this corner of classical literature that continues to speak eloquently in our time.

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Dangerous Food

1 Corinthians 8-10 in Its Context

Recognizing the social meaning of food and meals in Greco-Roman culture and, in particular, the social meaning of idol-food, is an integral part of understanding the impact of Paul’s instructions to the Christian community at Corinth regarding the consumption of idol-food. Shared meals were a central feature of social intercourse in Greco-Roman culture. Meals and food were markers of social status, and participation at meals was the main means of establishing and maintaining social relations. Participation in public rites (and sharing the meals which ensued) was a requirement of holding public office.

The social consequences of refusing to eat idol-food would be extreme. Christians might not attend weddings, funerals, celebrations in honour of birthdays, or even formal banquets without encountering idol-food. In this extended reading of 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1, Paul’s response to the Corinthian Christians’ query concerning food offered to idols, Gooch uses a social-historical approach, combining historical methods of source, literary and redaction criticism, and newer applications of anthropological and sociological methods to determine what idol-food was, and what it meant in that place at that time to eat or avoid it. In opposition to a well-entrenched scholarly consensus, Gooch claims that although Paul had abandoned purity rules concerning food, he would not abandon Judaism’s cultural and religious understanding concerning idol-food.

On the basis of his reconstruction of Paul’s letter in which he urged the Corinthian Christians to avoid any food infected by non-Christian rites, Gooch argues that the Corinthians rejected Paul’s instructions to avoid facing significant social liabilities.

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Dangerous Gifts

Gender and Exchange in Ancient Greece

By Deborah Lyons

Inspired by anthropological writing on reciprocity and kinship, this book applies the idea of gendered wealth to ancient Greek myth for the first time, and also highlights the importance of the sister-brother bond in the Classical world.

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Dante’s Inferno, The Indiana Critical Edition

Translated by Mark Musa. Dante Alighieri

This new critical edition, including Mark Musa’s classic translation, provides students with a clear, readable verse translation accompanied by ten innovative interpretations of Dante’s masterpiece.

Dante’s Vita Nuova, New Edition Cover

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Dante’s Vita Nuova, New Edition

A Translation and an Essay

Translated by Mark Musa. Dante Alighieri

In this new edition Musa views Dante's intention as one of cruel and comic commentary on the shallowness and self-pity of his protagonist, who only occasionally glimpses the true nature of love.

"... the explication de texte which accompanies [Musa's] translation is instructively novel, always admirable.... This present work offers English readers a lengthy appraisal which should figure in future scholarly discussions." —Choice

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