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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The conflicts of Classical translation

Any translation is bound to be only partially faithful to the original. Translation is, as the Latin root of the word shows, transference from one language to another. It is not, or should not be, slavish imitation. The Italians have a saying: “Traduttore traditore” – “the translator is a traitor” – and one has to accept from the start that this is bound to be the case.

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Life lessons from Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius

William Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius (the great stoic philosopher and emperor) have more in common than you might think. They share a recorded birth-date, with Shakespeare baptized on 26 April 1564, and Marcus Aurelius born on 26 April 121 (Shakespeare’s actual birth date remains unknown, although he was baptised on 26 April 1564. His birth is traditionally observed and celebrated on 23 April, Saint George’s Day).

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Fake news, circa 70 A.D.: The Jewish War by Josephus

Concern about fake news is nothing new. Readers have long doubted the truth of Josephus’ contemporary history of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. to the Roman general Titus. Many have assumed that any author who could accept a post as a general on the side of the Jewish rebels in the war against Rome but abandon his comrades and end up writing an account of the war from the Roman side as a self-proclaimed friend of the Roman emperor could not be trusted.

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The contemporary significance of the dead sea scrolls

Many people have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but few know what they are or the significance they have for people today. This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and it gives us an opportunity to ask what are these scrolls and why they should matter to anyone.

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Cicero’s On Life and Death [extract]

In 58 BC, Roman politics was paralyzed by the coalition of Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar, known as the First Triumvirate. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator, who had successfully climbed the political ranks to reach the level of consul, struggled to maintain his independence while on occasion lending reluctant oratorical support to their projects and associates.

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Fighting for Athens: the Battle of Marathon [excerpt]

It was [the democratic state of Athens] that confronted the full wrath of Darius [the king of the Persian Empire] on the plain of Marathon. It was also an Athens filled with the same brand of trained soldiers to be found elsewhere in Greece: the hoplite.

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Philosopher of the Month: Socrates

This March, the OUP Philosophy team honors Socrates (470-399 BC) as their Philosopher of the Month. As elusive as he is a groundbreaking figure in the history of philosophy, this Athenian thinker is perhaps best known as the mentor of Plato and the developer of the Socratic method.

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Ancient legal papyri bring lost world to life

Everyone has heard of the ancient Jewish religious scrolls discovered at Qumran by the Dead Sea in the middle of the 20th century. But who is aware that nearly 100 legal papyri have been found in the same region, or that they allow unparalleled access to the ancient social world of Judea and Nabatea in the period 100 BCE to 200 CE?

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Cicero’s Defence Speeches: an audio guide

In this audio guide to Cicero’s Defence Speeches, Dominic Berry, senior lecturer in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Edinburgh University and the translator of this volume, introduces Cicero and his world.

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“Nevertheless she persisted.”

This week we saw a male US senator silence his female colleague on the floor of the United States Senate. In theory, gender has nothing to do with the rules governing the conduct of US senators during a debate. The reality seems rather different.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

How much do you know about ancient Greek and Roman marriages?

Lacking in love or not, the Greeks’ and Romans’ celebration of marriage was still marked by particular customs. Some of their marital traditions form the roots of modern practices today. For instance, while the Romans might not have gifted diamonds and other “bling” as frequently as suitors do now, an intending husband did solemnize his engagement with a kiss and an iron ring.

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Five tragic love stories across time

This time of year is often filled with images of romance, hearts, and cupid’s bows, but not all love stories end in happily ever after. Who among us hasn’t had their heart broken, or felt the sting of rejection once (or twice)? But we all know that life without love (even if it’s painful) isn’t much of a life. As Charles Darwin once said, ‘Much love much trial, but what an utter desert is life without love’.

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What is new about Roman law?

Aside from the field of history itself, few disciplines routinely reach out to texts dating back several millennia to reassess fundamental issues. Theology is one, for obvious reasons. Another is philosophy, where the texts of Plato or Aristotle, not to mention more obscure writers, routinely warrants attention. In legal scholarship, a similar foundational position is held by Roman law.

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Taking liberties with the text: reflections of a translator

If you have ever tried to learn another language you already know that, even for beginners, translation is never simply a matter of looking the “foreign” words up in a dictionary and writing them down. The result is gibberish, because no two languages work in exactly the same way at the level of grammar (what the rules are) and syntax (how the sentence puts them to work).

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The Amazons ride again

The Amazons of Greek legend have fascinated humans for the past 3,000 years. The Amazon women were faster, smarter, and better than men, or so claimed the Greek author Lysias:
[The Amazons] alone of those dwelling around them were armed with iron, they were the first to ride horses, and, on account of the inexperience of their enemies, they overtook by

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The best medical advice from ancient Greece and Rome

As a highly revered and extensively-studied field, medicine today has certainly evolved from its origins in ancient times. However, to fully appreciate how far we’ve come since then, we’ve compiled some of the best medical advice the ancient Greeks and Romans had to offer back in the day. Disclaimer: We at Oxford University Press do not condone or encourage heeding the advice below.

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