Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Caring about the past in the embattled present

Growing up in Manhattan meant that I didn’t live among ancient ruins – just subway stations, high-rise apartments, and Central Park’s relatively recent architectural confections. It took living for a year in Europe as a six-year old and for another year as a ten-year old to develop awareness about our collective heritage stretching back millennia. Visiting the vacant site of Stonehenge on a blustery fall day in the early 1960s

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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

9 fascinating facts about festivals in ancient Greece and Rome

The ways in which the ancient people chose to express themselves on these special calendar days is fascinating. In examining both its contrasts and similarities to today, studying ancient culture can be seen as the study of our own humanity. To demonstrate some of the unique aspects of culture in ancient Greece and Rome, we compiled a list of these 9 facts about some festivals in ancient Greece and Rome.

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Ten tips on how to succeed as a woman: lessons from the past

An unexpected figure lurks in the pages of Wonder Woman (no. 48) from 1951 — the 17th-century French Classicist Anne Dacier. She’s there as part of the ‘Wonder Women of History’ feature which promoted historical figures as positive role models for its readership. Her inspirational story tells of her success in overcoming gender prejudice to become a respected translator of Classical texts.

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“An infernal journey” – an extract from Homer

Homer, despite being the author of the hugely influential The Odyssey and The Iliad, remains a bit of a mystery. We know very little about his life, but what we can see is the huge legacy that he has left behind in art, music, philosophy, literature, and more. By examining both of his epic poems, we can begin to understand more about this mythical figure. In the extract below Barbara Grazosi takes a closer look at Odysseus’ journey to the Underworld.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

Brexit, Marmite, and brand loyalty in the Roman World

One of the early and somewhat unexpected effects of Brexit in the UK was the threatened ‘Marmageddon’, the shortage and subsequent price rise of the much-loved – and much-hated – Marmite. Brands were, however, also a part of much earlier economies. In ancient Rome, for instance, consumers placed their trust in a number of brand markers, which signified reputation and quality, and very often carried a certain prestige. This was particularly the case with food and drink, especially wine.

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A literary Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has many historical roots in American culture. While it is typically a day spent surrounded by family and showing appreciation for what we are thankful for, we would all be lying if we did not admit that our favorite part is consuming an abundance of delicious food until we slip into a food coma.

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Hillary and history: how powerful women have been maligned through the ages

The 2016 United States presidential election has been perhaps the most contentious contest in recent history. Some of the gendered stereotypes deployed in it, however, are nothing new. Powerful and outspoken women have been maligned for thousands of years. Ancient authors considered the political arena to be the domain of men, and chastised women who came to power.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

Make demagogues great again

This year’s eyebrow-raising, jaw-dropping American electoral campaign has evoked in some observers the memory of the ancient Roman Republic, especially as it neared its bloody end. Commentators have drawn parallels between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Julius Caesar. That would be an insult – to Caesar.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

How much do you know about ancient ghosts, witches, and monsters?

From tales of Medusa’s wretched gaze turning men to stone to the cunning Sphinx torturing the city of Thebes, supernatural creatures and beings have long been a part of poems and children’s stories for centuries. The Greeks’ and Romans’ fears and superstitions informed their culture, and have long fascinated scholars intrigued by the extant corpus of mentions of witches, ghosts, and monsters in Greek and Roman literature.

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Homer’s The Odyssey: challenges for the 21st century translator

Homeric word-order is unusually accommodating towards its English equivalent. Verbs usually come where you expect them, adjectives sit near their nouns. Compared to, say, the complex structures of a Pindaric ode, or the elliptical one-line exchanges of dramatic dialogue, Homer’s largely paratactic progression of ‘…and…but…when…then…’ presents his translator with few immediate problems.

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You have to read Henry Green

Henry Green is renowned for being a “writer’s-writer’s writer” and a “neglected” author. The two, it would seem, go hand in hand, but neither are quite true. This list of reasons to read Henry Green sets out to loosen the inscrutability of the man and his work.

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Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein: The history of the myth of Babylon

‘Babylon’ is a name which throughout the centuries has evoked an image of power and wealth and splendour – and decadence. Indeed, in the biblical Book of Revelation, Rome is damned as the ‘Whore of Babylon’ – and thus identified with a city whose image of lust and debauchery persisted and flourished long after the city itself had crumbled into dust. Powerful visual images in later ages, l perpetuate the negative image Babylon acquired in biblical tradition.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

11 facts you may not have known about Roman gladiators

Gladiator fights were the phenomenon of their day – a celebration of courage, endurance, bravery, and violence against a backdrop of fame, fortune, and social scrutiny. Today, over 6 million people flock every year to admire the Colosseum, but what took place within those ancient walls has long been a matter of both scholarly debate and general interest.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

How much do you know about ancient Greek education?

It’s back-to-school time again – time for getting back into the swing of things and adapting to busy schedules. Summer vacation is over, and it’s back to structured days of homework and exam prep. These rigid fall schedules have probably been the norm for you ever since you were in kindergarten.

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A look at historical multiracial families through the House of Medici

The Medici, rulers of Renaissance Florence, are not the most obvious example of a multiracial family. They’ve always been part of the historical canon of “western civilization,” the world of dead white men. Perhaps we should think again. A tradition dating back to the sixteenth century suggests that Alessandro de’ Medici, an illegitimate child of the Florentine banking family who in 1532 became duke of Florence, was the son of an Afro-European woman.

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The last -ism?

There has lately been something like an arms race in literary studies to name whatever comes after postmodernism. Post-postmodernism, cosmodernism, digimodernism, automodernism, altermodernism, and metamodernism rank among the more popular prospects.

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