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    Classics Department Talk

    The Classical Tradition: Art, Literature, Thought.



    In his recent talk to the Classics Department, Dr Ingo Gildenhard (King's, Cambridge) classified Classics as the study of the ancient Greek and Roman cultures, their languages and their effect on culture since. The last of these he called the classical tradition.

    He talked of how the classical tradition can be seen all across modern societies and one well known example is the works of JK Rowling. Rowling herself was a classicist and includes many classical aspects in her books from creatures (like the centaurs and Fluffy, the three-headed dog), to the names of characters, (like Albus, white, Severus, strict, and Minerva, wise), and the spells themselves; like expelliarmus and expecto patronum.

    He continued to describe how examples of the classical tradition appear throughout the centuries including Milton and the Bard himself. Shakespeare writes Iliadic scenes including the death of Hektor and Milton includes hints to Narcissus with his telling of Eve.

    He also mentioned how our language is hugely influenced by Latin and Ancient Greek particularly in longer words or even the longer versions of short words we commonly use like bike/bicycle and phone/telephone.

    Lastly he also talked about how we often see scenes of Greek mythology in art as well such as the story of Daphne turning into a laurel tree, contrasted by Pollaiuolo to the biblical story of St. Sebastian. Of course these tales are adapted to the beliefs and ideals of the time with Titian's Actaeon not looking directly at the forbidden sight of nude women but the skull of a stag foreshadowing his dire fate.

    I really enjoyed the talk as it went deeper into topics that I have a lot of interest in and it is also an area of study that encompasses the importance of Classics and its relevance in modern society. Dr Gildenhard did an amazing job of giving these modern and past examples of the classical tradition and I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and am going to explore the classical tradition further in the future.


    Claude, UG10