Discussion Forum: Week 12

This week, we’ll read Euripides’ Medea. This is the last piece of ancient literature we’ll read together this semester, following on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and Euripides’ Trojan Women. I’d like you to use our forum this week to reflect on the experience of reading these ancient texts. What surprised you about them? What challenges did you face in reading and understanding them? What texts provoked the strongest reactions for you, positive or negative? How is reading ancient literature different from consuming types of media we’re more familiar with in our everyday lives?

This week, each family will hold its own conversation below. Reply to my family comment headers below, or to someone else in your family!

Remember, you can be very brief in these comments, but you need to add something new (an observation, an argument, a quotation, a question). For full instructions on participating in the discussion forum, click here. Your comment should be submitted before midnight on Wednesday.


    1. I think what surprised me most about these ancient texts is how so often the dialogue and writing feels inhuman. It is difficult to imagine anyone speaking the way the characters in these plays and tragedies do. Their speech feels quite abnormal. I think this goes hand-in-hand with the vocabulary and analogies used in the texts, which are often difficult to read and wrap one’s head around. It takes a while and often several re-readings of certain sections to grasp what it’s saying (for example, the chorus’s lines from line 1081-1086 of Medea . . . that took me a minute).

      1. I totally agree with you Nat, reading these ancient texts was both challenging and very rewarding. These texts read almost like riddles, where much of the dialogue has double meanings, foreshadowing, etc. Similar to your experience, I also found myself rereading sections of the Iliad and Euripides’ Trojan Women to try and fully grasp the intensity of the scenes and picture what these dialogues would look like in action. Despite how difficult they were to read I think it added to the experience of reading, when you read these texts you’re able to truly feel that they’re ancient, almost otherworldly. And even then, you still feel a sense that these texts have some connection to our world, like the countless stories of war, betrayal, grief, and love, which show that these emotions and stories are truly universal.

        1. I agree. As when reading any non-contemporary works, such as Medea, Shakespeare, etc. , it is often difficult to not understand not only the language but also the social interactions happening between characters. I ended up having to re-read a lot of passages to fully understand not only what was happening but also why certain things were happening. Reading texts like these are challenging because of how unnatural it sounds to our ears (or eyes?). Either way, the disconnect makes it feel more separated from our own lives, making it seem more like a story, or a lore, than a historical myth.

          1. I think that this is a cool link to Shakespeare because I think its so similar. I think that depending on what the writing it, it can either captivate you or either push you away. I would say the most confusing for me is the more poetic texts that talk in riddles. I these early texts try to make it hard to understand them so that the elite are only able to process the confusion.

      2. It’s interesting to think about what we consider makes a dialogue inhuman and whether it’s in a comparative sense to how we speak today or not. I also think it’s important to note that all the ancient texts we read have been translating innumerable times in innumerable ways — how might this affect the way that we read them? because it’s 1) possible that people of this time simply spoke in a different manner than we do now and 2) possible that translation cannot truly capture the way that ancient dialogue was meant to be read or expressed in a verbal manner. Overall I agree!

    2. Something I found surprising about reading these ancient texts is how relatable they are. While they depict completely unrelatable circumstances, they also depict incredibly relatable human emotions. The sorrow, love, anxiety, fear, and anger these characters experience in these ancient texts is quintessentially human, and almost any reader can relate to how the characters feel in some way. Because these texts are so ancient, I was surprised by the extent to which I was able to connect with the characters and understand the experiences they were going through.

      1. I agree, I was also surprised by how easily I could see contemporary issues and perspectives detailed in these ancient texts. I found Trojan Women particularly interesting, since it gave insight into reactions to Homer’s works from audiences so long ago. The idea that the same emotions The Iliad provokes in me were provoked in authors of the 4th century BC is stunning. Watching much later adaptations, like the film version in 1971 only adds to a sense of awe as how these stories continue to morph, and are presented in new ways to modern audiences, while holding on to the timeless narrative threads.

      2. I agree with this sentiment. As I was reading this week, I noticed that the way in which the characters speak and act is not representative at all of society today, however, the emotions shown and the arguments are very human and so natural that they have lasted. This is what makes reading ancient mythology meaningful to me. While the scenarios, actions and dialogue are very different than my own life, the human emotion and problems that arise exist in mainstream life today.

      3. I think this comment perfectly encapsulates the beauty of this piece. As stated, the events are nowhere near relatable, but the emotions being felt and portrayed throughout the piece so beautifully capture what it means to be human. Despite the fact that these indeed are ancient texts, I found myself comparing them to events that have gone on in my life through the emotions that we shared in our perspective experiences.

    3. For me, reading and understanding these texts was a lot easier with familiarity with the ancient Greek language and culture from prior classes. Throughout the year, I gained the ability to grapple with complex themes and imagery through the help of translations, annotations, and scholarly resources. These challenges were very rewarding, and with the support of my classmates, I gained a deeper appreciation for these important works of literature.

      1. I totally agree! I think coming into these texts with an understanding of ancient Greek themes and societal standards/norms would really help when grappling with such difficult texts. I think an understanding of these themes would also take away some of the shock value from these texts as you are already exposed to how brutal encounters can get.

      2. Jared, I definitely agree with this, and I come from a slightly different perspective. I often felt like I was not familiar with some of the language and phrasing being used within the texts, and I definitely felt this challenge when reading the Iliad which was the first ancient text I had read in a while. However, I felt like one major thing that I found rewarding with these texts were the emotional reactions that were evoked when reading them. The death scenes in the Iliad are incredibly sad, and Argos’ reunification with Odysseus evokes a strong reaction in nearly any reader who experiences the scene. For me, even though the language is vastly different between ancient and modern texts, the emotional effect is still felt by the reader who is encountering it.

    4. Of the texts we read, the Iliad provoked the strongest emotional reaction in me. This was my second time reading it, and I found it just as moving as the first time. I love all the fantastical elements of the Odyssey, but I think I find the Iliad more engaging precisely because it steers away from these unrealistic occurrences. I can understand and empathize deeply with Andromache’s grief at Hector’s impeding death, Achilles’ anguish at Patroclus’ death, and Priam’s pleading for his son’s corpse. The emotionality of the Iliad translates remarkably well to the present-day. When reading the Iliad, I never felt like there was a disconnect between ancient and modern, which allowed me to relate more effectively to the story.

      1. I had gone into this class not ever having read the Iliad and I was expecting something similar to the Odyssey but was surprised when, like you said, there aren’t really any of the fantasical elements or godly influence or anything like that. It was mostly just war and its consequences. It was really cool to see that these themes that I see a lot in JRPGs have been iterated on since ancient times.

      2. I totally agree with you the Illiad has a very strong emotional impact. This shows the timelessness of the piece because of the lasting impact it has despite how long ago it was written. It portrays a very engaging model of human experiences. It is relatable because of the loss, grief, and struggle to find meaning which are common human events that happen today. I think the most surprising thing about the Illiad is the violence and brutality that is described. Modern storytelling today is much more sanitized so the shock of reading the Illiad is a testament to Greek Culture.

      3. I can understand where you’re coming from Vivian, and I do agree that the Illiad was very relatable. Personally, I related a little bit more to the Odyssey, even knowing what Odysseus did in the Illiad. I think about it as I wrote in my reflection project, as a sort of recovery or redemption. Recovery from anything is not a one step process- there’s this idea that as soon as you realize you have a problem, it’s over with and done, but the fact is that it’s a long slog. A lot of what we cite as Odysseus’s cleverness wasn’t so much a clever trick more as a desperate act of survival. In particular, the part with Argos the dog hit me really hard. I mentioned this in a previous forum, but there was a time when my childhood dog was the only ‘person’ that I felt like I could talk to about how sad and alone I felt. When we first got her, I was this happy little kid, and over the next few years I became a shell of my self. We put her down last summer, and it was a tough experience. Not just because I was saying goodbye to my dog, but also because I was still struggling. The same way that Odysseus was still in hiding, and still in disguise, I was still dealing with those same problems. I don’t know- Dogs dying always make me cry.

    5. An aspect of ancient literature that struck me as very different from modern media is the way that the stories are written assuming that the audience already knows how they end. Most modern books and movies, even works that retell well-known stories, rely on surprising and novel plot developments, twists, and suspenseful moments. Comparatively, ancient texts can be hard to approach because it is such a different style of storytelling. They can also be difficult to understand without the same context that ancient readers had. However, throughout the semester I’ve come to really appreciate the unique style of ancient storytelling. It lends itself well to tense scenes of dramatic irony, tragic scenes like Hector saying goodbye to Andromache and Astyanax, and interesting themes about fate and whether it can be avoided. Some of the moments in Trojan Women and the Iliad that I found most emotionally touching were grounded in the audience and even the characters knowing and grappling with how the story will end. It’s a narrative structure that comes up rarely in modern media (although Madeline Miller employs it very well in Circe), but I will definitely appreciate it more when I do encounter it.

      1. I agree. It’s fascinating to look at the way the audience is expected to know the outcome, but the characters can also also know their own outcomes. The characters know their own fate, and their self-awareness can almost implicate the audience. It definitely makes scenes more dramatic.

      2. I totally agree with you! I used to be the type of person who would avoid reading a book if I already knew the main storyline. However, upon reading the Iliad, I was intrigued by the author’s technique. Instead of diminishing the reader’s pleasure, this approach enhances it by allowing them to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the narrative beforehand. I also noticed this same method utilized in Percy Jackson (Medusa’s Candy House). By skillfully guiding the reader through various cues, the author induces a sense of anticipated tragedy, which serves to increase the reader’s empathy towards the characters while prolonging feelings of sorrow and anxiety.

        1. I agree. I think that the idea of fate used thought these tales is really interesting in both the audience and often the characters themselves knowing their endings. Knowing the ending in a way makes the middle more interesting as the audience is waiting for the surprise twists and turns that lead to the expected end. I saw this most obviously in Percy Jackson which plays with both styles of writing (knowing the end and modern story telling of surprises). Especially when Percy sees the Fates cut his lines and then he lives. Those kinds of twist make an expected ending more unexpected in the middle.

    6. One of the things that has most surprised me from reading literature from antiquity is the amount of feminism and “girlbossing” that happens. Medea, Penelope, and Circe have all symbolized different aspects of strong, feminist, characters, in a genre I expected to be entirely dominated by men. Although most stories are, the underlying stories of the women and feminine characters supporting these men has been sort of astonishing, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

    7. One thing that surprises me the most and is also the reason why I enjoy reading ancient Greek plays and poetries is how dramatic and relatable those storylines are. I often find that ancient texts talk in a very inhuman way. And lots of the characters do horrible things. Things look so dramatic and it is normal because these are stories, but then it always shocks me how we can see our world through the reflections of the old old stories. Reading them is different in the way that we are entering a conversion through the river of time. While reading, we the readers have to constantly shape our position in time and compare and contrast various ideas formed considering the culture and social values of the time.

      1. I agree that the Greek stories we’ve read so far have been dramatic, yet relatable. One reason I think they’re so relatable is because they deal with the themes of love, betrayal, power, and mortality, which are very relevant in our lives today. Additionally, a lot of the characters involved in these plays have complex and flawed characteristics which can make them more human-like and relatable to readers today. Sometimes these characters do terrible things, and these terrible actions make them more relatable because it highlights their imperfections and shows how they are constantly faced with difficult moral dilemmas and sometimes make mistakes. By showing some of the darker aspects of human nature, these ancient Greek stories can resonate with people today who also struggle with their flaws.

    8. I think the biggest challenge to reading ancient plays actually relates to the challenges relating to reading plays in general. When reading a play (or any text for that matter) I find myself reading it in my own voice. Beyond the difficulty of even understanding everything when reading a contempory play, I have to actually edit in facts I know are true about what this play might have looked like when performed. I have remind myself all of the actors are men, and that the chorus is singing everything. I don’t think I fully comprehend the purpose of this text as I read it, even if I know sort of what it is in the back of my mind.

      1. I definitely struggle with this as well! Many of my difficulties in reading these plays come less from the fact that the come from antiquity (though it doesn’t help), and more so from my general challenges reading plays rather than watching them as a whole. I think its helpful to connect this realization to the above conversation about the characters sounding almost inhuman. I think that if I reread the plays and think about the things that differentiate me from them might be helpful!

      2. I agree. Many of the struggles personally come from the fact that when reading there is much more left up to interpretation, say in the tone you might expect someone to speak in or how they move around the stage. Combined with the antiquity of the language and sometimes roughness in translation, I often forget that it can be helpful to try to envision this as a play since it can help me fully understand what the original author, or authors, were trying to say.

    9. I think what really surprised me was how I found connections and applications of these texts in our everyday current culture. I think so many of the themes/lessons that came up in our readings of ancient texts are still applicable today. I also think this is what helped me really be able to connect and react to the texts. I felt like reading where I could relate back to my life or a situation where I felt a similar emotion were the ones that I really resonated with me the most. That being said, the reading itself I found more challenging than modern books or literature. I think for me it just took more time to digest and understand.

    1. I found that many of these ancient texts deal with themes and emotions that are still present in our lives. Grief, slavery, and sexual violence are just a few examples of themes in these works that our society still reckons with today. This is a massive reason why these texts are still read and enjoyed today, because they are still relevant and relatable to people’s modern day lives.

      1. I would like to agree! There is a continuation of these themes in modern times. While presented in different ways there are a lot of modern versions on the things that happen in the ancient texts. It seems more accessible to female readers and partly empowering. Many emotions are portrayed.

        1. I agree! I think this is a reason that feminist retellings are very popular. In both Circe, Song of Achilles, and Percy Jackson, there is a powerful woman who is either a side or main character that takes control of her own destiny and rebels against the societal pressures put on her. I love this because it’s something that is completely missing from ancient texts, where any powerful woman is subdued and vilified.

      2. I completely agree. Whenever I had read one of our ancient texts from this semester, I paid most attention to how similar humans are today to the Ancient Greek. It is amazing to me how the emotions and drama that come with human pettiness, selfishness, love, and power that are still so prevalent today are so prevalent in texts so old.

    2. What surprised me the most about reading these texts is how disconnected they seem to be with the material they are presenting. While we read these texts I noticed that even if the moments were very gory and disgusting, it still felt disconnected. It felt as if there was a wall between what was being told and what we were somewhat witnessing– if that makes sense. Maybe it was my own way of reading them and processing them, but at some points it felt almost as if what was happening wasn’t really connected to what I was learning that was truly happening. Maybe it was the way these texts were written that caused that, but it was something which stood out to me while reading. Maybe it’s a Shakespeare situation, it’s not the same to read it as it is to watch it.

      1. I agree. As a modern reader, I often found it difficult to engage with ancient texts in the same way that I can with modern texts. I understand what you mean about feeling like there was a wall between the texts and your experience of them, because I felt the same way. I originally thought that emotionally connecting with these materials wouldn’t be possible because of their language and the disconnect between modernity and antiquity, but class lectures and facilitated discussions have proved me wrong. There is sentimentality and humanity in ancient works if you know where to look. For instance, something that I never would have picked up on would have been the significance of the scene where Hector took off his helmet so that Astyanax wouldn’t be afraid of him. This is a sickeningly tender moment, but without a certain level of classical knowledge and comfortability with the way they are written, it can be difficult to emotionally access the texts. I look forward to discussing Medea in class to see what emotional moments I have missed.

        1. I agree with this- I struggle to see the problems described through the lens of ancient Athenians and understand some of the author’s intentions. For example, since The Odyssey works to justify Odysseus’ brutal murders of the suitors, I first thought that this was a generally acceptable act of violence. However, as we discussed in class, this act had to be justified by Homer because the average audience member at the time would have also found the murders shocking.

          1. I agree, I also think some of the context is definitely lost over time. Like when Odysseus stabs out Polyphemus’ eye I just didn’t fully understand the metaphors used to describe the violence. once it was explained the horror of the actual scene set in. And i also think some of the nuances are lost in translation, and because of the fact that we are reading the stories and plays instead of hearing them performed. I think on some level we will never fully be able to understand these texts, because ultimately we don’t have the full picture of the context it was written in we only have fragments.

    3. Unlike modern entertainment, as in movies or TV shows, ancient literature requires us to use our imagination and envision the characters and environments presented to us through the written word. Furthermore, ancient Greek literature is filled with historical and cultural references that might not be immediately clear to us. These references can add to the challenge of understanding and fully appreciating the text, but can also bring a new level of reward when we piece together the historical and cultural background of the story.

      Reading ancient Greek literature might take a bit of extra effort to comprehend compared to modern media, but it is a unique and enriching experience. These texts provide a window into the history, culture, and values of ancient Greece, and can help us develop critical thinking and analytical skills as we dissect the complex ideas presented in the literature.

      1. I totally agree! There are some parts of ancient works that don’t have the same gravity or impact to a modern audience if they don’t understand the context of the society they were written in/for. For example, without understanding Xenia the breaking of it by, say, the suitors in The Odyssey, it just seems annoying for the characters facing the situation. Without understanding how important Xenia was and how seriously it was taken, the breaking of it by the suitors does not have the same effect that it does once you understand the social expectations of the time.

      2. I definitely agree! I feel like reading ancient texts can be sort of uncomfortable at times, since it requires so much more effort than the types of media we are so used to being exposed to. Although it definitely requires more effort and focus, by reading these ancient texts we have so much to gain and learn from.

    4. What surprised me the most about the pieces of ancient literature we have read thus far is the power of word usage and more specifically, how this can reflect the author’s intended message for its audience. Throughout the semester we have read multiple translations of the same passages, in addition to different renditions of the same stories and each one leaves readers with different thoughts and questions. I think that this highlights the power of the author at hand and their amazing ability to convey different messages with the same story.

      1. I was surprised at how different the different translations and versions of the same story could be. Before this class, I thought that there was one version of each myth according to Greek mythology. I was also able to explore this through the reflection projects (both my own and my group mates). For instance, the character of Penelope is portrayed very different in the Odyssey versus the modern novel: The Penelopiad.

    5. One thing that surprised me when reading these ancient texts was how they could make you feel sympathy toward characters who carried out deeply disturbing acts of violence. We saw this with Odysseus’s murder of the suitors and Medea’s murder of her children and Jason’s wife. The Iliad provoked one of the strongest reactions for me with the murders of Hector and Astyanax and the unbearable pain and loss that Hecuba and Andromache faced. Understanding this ancient literature requires background information about the ancient Greek value system and the different characters in the world of Greek mythology. This knowledge builds on itself, and as we read more ancient Greek texts, they become more accessible.

      1. This is a really great point. The human element of the Iliad is surprisingly impactful, especially for a work that many would simply say is “about the Trojan War.” For a work focused on the war, there are loads of emotional moments; perhaps my favorite is Achilles’ response to Priam’s supplication. It demonstrates that despite the deepest seeded resentments imaginable, two people can be joined in grief, compassion, and forgiveness. It’s a beautiful message for a work that is otherwise rather bleak, and definitely not one you’d expect to find in a poem that many automatically associate with bloodshed and war.

    6. I think what surprised me the most was the difference between translations in many of the texts that we read. The major themes and events all came across in the same way, but it was interesting to see how small differences in words and phrases can change the whole mood of the view of a character. I think it was challenging for me to think about how stories could turn out so differently depending on decisions made by the translator. Which version of the translation should you take as the most “true?” I think that engaging with different translations was so important in our study of these ancient texts, but I continue to struggle with what different translations tell us about the original text and what they tell us about the potential bias of a translator.

    7. Something that surprised me about the ancient texts was how timeless a lot of the themes were. I think this allowed me to more easily understand and read these texts. The ancient literature that we are working with is more complex and not in the language/prose that we are used to consuming. Because themes like gender inequality and xenophobia are timeless we are still able to connect meaningfully with these texts.

    8. I think my favorite part of reading ancient literature is comparing the different social norms of then and now. There is definitely a learning curve to reading these texts that I struggled with a lot in the beginning and a lot of that comes from society being so different from what I am used to. Having to accept the fact that over a hundred men have invaded someone’s house and just live there now just to marry someone without question is a difficult skill to learn. You can’t read these texts without learning about the culture and history around it, moments like this are definitely inflated because of the genre but their core aspects are also just norms that I wasn’t familiar with going into this.

    9. What stood out to me the most about these texts was how much they undermined the semi-divine “superhero” archetype we see so often in Ancient Greek epics. Most Ancient Greek epics depicted heroes as selfless, brave men fighting for glory. These presented an opposing narrative: they showed the ugly side of things that was not often brought to light in these stories. For example, Trojan Women showcased the horrific treatment of the women of conquered cities and the greed and depravity of the conquerors. Euripides’s Medea showed Jason, one of the most famous Ancient Greek heroes, as a coward whose success was built entirely off the backs of others’ work. This serves as a refreshing counter to the common narrative across Ancient Greek epics and provides a fascinating new perspective.

    10. I wasn’t that surprised because I knew what I was getting into. I knew it couldn’t things are like fluff for kids. I knew some of the stories just not fully. Yes it was certain different especially like the different types of wiring styles but it was cool to explore. I liked how for example Homer’s writing isn’t something I was use to because no one I know writes like that. But it wasn’t so different were I don’t understand.

    1. What surprised me the most about reading these texts is how disconnected they seem to be with the material they are presenting. While we read these texts I noticed that even if the moments were very gory and disgusting, it still felt disconnected. It felt as if there was a wall between what was being told and what we were somewhat witnessing– if that makes sense. Maybe it was my own way of reading them and processing them, but at some points it felt almost as if what was happening wasn’t really connected to what I was learning that was truly happening. Maybe it was the way these texts were written that caused that, but it was something which stood out to me while reading. Maybe it’s a Shakespeare situation, it’s not the same to read it as it is to watch it.

      1. I completely agree! I think violence becomes normalized in Greek Myths because of how common it is in the texts. Violence is necessary for the Ancient Greeks, they believe it helps to maintain society and eventually create peace. I think because of how people view violence, as a useful tool to create heroes and divine people, it makes the violence seem so disconnected from our modern day people view the gruesome actions in ancient texts.

      2. I was thinking the same! Reading all of these different texts all felt almost bardic as they felt more like they were made to be told from an outsider’s perspective rather than for you to be actually immersed in the story. Throughout the stories told from a male perspective, the violence and action described feels more for dramatic effect. Additionally the stories told from the female perspective feel disconnected as there is no solidarity among the women.

    2. I think what surprised me the most about the ancient texts is how relatable they are. They all deal with similar themes of grief, loss, revenge, and anger, which permeate through many modern storylines as well. In all the ancient texts we have read in the course there are complicated relationships that develop between the characters and the very human interactions are what drive the plot. Regardless of the context or dialogue, the forces that worked between the characters was surprisingly relatable. What I found challenging about reading and understanding the texts were the analogies and references the ancient poets would make to things people who mostly lived in the time period or have a deep understanding of ancient Greek texts, history, and literature would pick up on.

      1. I agree Lyvia! I’ve heard this thought echoed in other families as well so clearly people now feel very drawn to the emotions and social dynamics depicted in these ancient characters. This has me wondering if these consistent emotions/reactions are a unique feature of being human; is it inevitable that we all feel some sort of deep hurt, grief, anger, or sorrow? I think that feeling these deep emotions is something so special to the human existence in that everyone in every generation can relate to feelings of heartbreak, disappointment, etc. I interacted with the emotions of these ancient characters in a similar way to modern characters: putting myself in their shoes using empathy through my own experiences.

    3. The most shocking part about reading these ancient texts for me was how often it would be written that a goddess or nymph would do things to harm/victim-blame other women, or support the harm and injustices brought against innocent women throughout the novels. These goddesses supporting women being prizes, or transformed into hideous creatures, seemed incredibly strange to me, as I feel as though in modern times no woman would wish for another to be violated as forms of tradition or “prize”. It made me wonder what women of this time thought of how they themselves were being written, and if they, as long as it were not them such as in “Trojan Women”, were also supportive of women on enemy lines being captured and violated by the men who took them as prizes. I truly want to know and understand if this was an accurate reflection of women during that time’s thoughts, or was just very obviously a man writing unrealistically about how women felt about other women being put in terrible conditions.

      1. Great points, Sarah! I don’t know if I completely agree with you. Don’t get me wrong, I think as modern-day Haverford students we would certainly do everything possible to prevent people from being harmed. But levels of solidarity have varied throughout history. When encountering ancient stories of women letting other women be harmed, I’m always reminded of The Handmaid’s Tale, in which women are kept down in society largely by other women.

      2. This has been a common theme throughout the readings where women tear other women down or don’t act in solidarity. I was surprised to see this in countless readings, including the Iliad and the Odyssey. It was interesting to see that female gods would be complicit in the poor treatment of women. I think you bring up a good point of if this was true representation of women at the time or if it is unrealistically written by a man.

      3. I think solidarity has fluctuated a lot throughout history. Like Grace said, certainly there are instances of women raising up other women, however it’s easy to weaponize women against other women (from a mythological standpoint). Goddesses don’t feel for the plights of women, because mortal women are beneath them. Of course, that indicates a lack of empathy of any kind, but still. I think it shows some nuance with female relationships: that women weren’t just seen as women, by other women. Or, thinking about modern examples, maybe it was more like a “pick me” attitude. Women were all seen in competition with one another — goddesses hated mortal women because the gods would prefer them. I think maybe the Greek view of femininity was more like the “pick me” attitude, than the ideal of solidarity that we hold in modern day.

    4. What surprised me the most about these readings was the violence in them, including against women. It was especially interesting to read about the violence against women as described in Trojan Women, where the women were treated as “prizes” to be won from battle, against the violence that Medea inflicted against her own family. These readings definitely gave me a better understanding of gender dynamics in ancient Greece, but as sweilljone pointed out, I also wonder if this is an accurate reflection of how women were treated in ancient times.

      1. I agree with what Emma said above. I thought that the violence against women was particularly surprising. But then again, given the gender dynamics between men and women in the Odyssey, it was kind of expected. In the Odyssey men are often described as warriors who are strong and courageous, whereas women are described as passive or obedient. But like Grace said above, I wonder how much of this description is accurate because of the actions of other women.

    5. One thing that surprised me was the importance of the translation, especially in the Odyssey. During class, we were exposed to several translations, and it became clear that slight differences in translators’ word choices could produce significant differences in how the story is perceived by audiences. Additionally, it was interesting to learn about the kinds of responses that translations of the Odyssey ‘want’ to produce for audiences. For example, we spoke in class about how the Odyssey attempts to rationalize the murder of the suitors in a way. Recognizing this influence was critical to my understanding of the text.

      1. I was thinking about this also. The way different times informed the translations and how that is in-turn expressed to the reader is fascinating. It would have been interesting to see how different translations would change the other ancient stories we read. Or how it sounded in Greek, what it sounded like for the ancients and how that informed their own interpretations of them.

    6. Reading these ancient texts was an informative experience because I know how the stories go, but I’ve never read them in their original forms and actually taken the time to analyze the motives and beliefs within the historical context. The text that provoked the strongest reaction out of me was the Iliad, specifically the part in which Hector is about to meet his death by Achilles and he is imagining what life would be like if there was no war and they were actually lovers. It was an amazing passage to read and go over in lecture.

      1. I completely agree with this thought! I think that I had heard almost all of these stories at some point in my life. I always enjoyed greek mythology so I loved to read on the surface level of all these works but never go in depth. But in this class we’ve had the opportunity to do so. Delving deeper into the historical and cultural context can shed light on the significance of certain characters and events, while examining the literary techniques and themes can reveal deeper layers of meaning. Additionally, exploring the ways in which these myths have been reinterpreted and reimagined over time can provide insight into their enduring relevance and power. I’ve also learned that Mythology, like all aspects of human culture, is not immune to the influences of racism and other forms of discrimination. In many ancient mythologies, including Greek mythology, certain characters and groups are depicted in ways that reinforce harmful stereotypes and biases.

    7. One thing that definitely surprised me as we’ve been reading this ancient texts, is how emotion/vulnerability is depicted. It seems as though in most of the works we’ve read, being emotional and having emotional experiences are valued in some way–for example, Odysseus is seen/depicted as a hero, and he is constantly demonstrating or speaking to his suffering in some way. The women of Ancient Greek texts also similarly discuss their suffering/feelings, and it seems as though suffering is a kind of barometer for worthiness in some way. I also wonder if maybe in other texts that we haven’t read, if this is differently depicted between men compared to women, and if vulnerability is differently valued across gender/gender roles at the time.

    8. I guess I’ll go more on the theme of reaction to classical media than to challenges. I think the Odyssey frustrated me in a lot of ways, because I felt the text was too pro-Odysseus, and I became rather irritated with this. Medea has been my favorite thus far. I feel Medea is similar to Odyesseus, clever and a liar, but it feels like the reader is meant to be more critiqual of her. This made reading about her less frustrating to me than reading about Odysseus.

      I also read Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiade for my reflection project, and found it interesting how many concerns Penelope and Medea shared. I wonder if Atwood took inspiration from this play, or if these concerns jump out as obvious for any women in that position.

    9. I think what was most fascinating to me in the ancient texts we read was the deep sense of humanity that they express. The often fantastical, impossibly distant settings in which take place are made familiar by the emotional complexities of the inhabitants of these distant lands. It has also been interesting to learn the historical context of many of these works, the oral tradition that shaped Homer’s epics and the theatrical performances that exposed the public to the tragedies we’ve read—from their inception, these stories were meant to connect their audience not only to its characters, but in a sense to each other.

    1. While reading these ancient texts I struggled in understanding some of the common allusions and metaphors that ancient audiences would have more easily recognized. Furthermore, the use of symbolism was something I was unaccustomed to as a modern reader, especially in the Homeric texts. The lack of an internal dialogue was quite different from more contemporary forms of media I interact with, like novels. Without our in-class discussion, I doubt I would have understood the true significance of Achilles chasing Hector in their final combat. On first reading it, I was confused as to why the narrator focused on the surrounding rocks, trees, and wellsprings during a high stakes battle scene.

      1. I agree that it was difficult at times to understand the full depth of what I was reading without the discussion in class after. I did not even really notice the lack of internal dialogue but now that you point it out it is very true. It is interesting to notice these things and I think trying to understand these common illusions and metaphors is a good way for us to learn more about the culture at the time.

      2. I agree with your comment. I felt that the extensive use of metaphors, symbolism, and allusions were hard to comprehend as a modern reader, and it would definitely make more sense for ancient audiences to understand. I also felt that the class discussions helped with the comprehension of the texts. I think you make great points about the lack of an internal dialogue as well. There were a lot of confusing scenes throughout the text, but in class discussions help.

      3. I agree that it was difficult to make sense of things without characters’ internal dialogue. This didn’t prevent the texts from being more engaging than I was expecting, but I still found myself taking things at face value. Then, when I went to class, I would realize I missed something important. Additionally, I know that many other stories or topics are alluded to, with the author expecting the audience to already know the full story and not need an explanation, while a modern reader would need one. I know that Greek mythology was mainly an oral tradition, but I am curious about how this was handled. How would ancient Greeks learn these stories in the first place? In school? From their parents or grandparents? Or somewhere else?

    2. I was surprised by how engaging the ancient literature we read was. There were moments where I felt really connected to the characters and empathized with the feelings of excitement, anger, sadness, and anxiety they were dealing with. The biggest challenge when reading the ancient literature was missing out on certain historical references to certain Gods or other myths that I haven’t read. Although reading these texts was very enjoyable I think having a little bit more of general background context would have helped make certain references clearer and more humorous.

      1. I agree that ancient literature is very engaging! However, I think that oftentimes it can be difficult to connect with characters. I do agree with Eva that the biggest challenge for me was my lack of background. Having a stronger background would be helpful in understanding certain references and contexts.

      2. It is also amazing to me how much I can empathize with the characters in ancient literature! Once I get used to the unfamiliar use of language, I’m constantly moved by how relatable and real these people are. They are laughing and crying over the same things that we still do today. I notice myself still holding this prejudice that human civilization is “progressing” over time. So I naturally think that people in ancient societies are very different (in a less “civilized” way) from us in the 21st century. But I know I’m wrong every time I find myself moved to tears by these ancient texts (including ancient Chinese poems and essays taught in schools). Human emotions are ever beautiful and complex no matter when and where we are. However I do instinctively distance myself away from the text whenever Gods and magic are involved. It’s probably out of another arrogant prejudice that dismisses everything that is not considered as “scientific” or “rational” in a modern perspective. I’m still training myself to approach these texts with a more open mind.

      3. I definitely agree with this. I think there’s a reason that these are the stories and “myths” that are continuously told even into modern times! There’s something both entertaining and meaningful about them that keeps people coming back. Even without the added cultural context, which I’m sure would certainly only improve the reading experience, there’s definitely still a shocking amount of engaging material to be found in Ancient Greek literature.

    3. While reading these ancient texts, I was surprised by myself that I knew some of these stories or myths from other contexts and readings in the past. On the other hand, I struggled to grapple with some of the texts because I didn’t always understand historical references or such to other myths or geography. Class discussions were very helpful in mitigating these struggles.

    4. While reading these ancient texts, I was continuously surprised by how much the language differed based on the choices of the translator. There were times when the language was very flower and almost inaccessible, and then other times when it seemed like it was surprisingly colloquial. This made me think critically about how ancient texts are presented to us, and realize that they might not be as daunting and detached as they are usually meant to seem.

    5. One of the most surprising aspects of reading ancient texts like “The Odyssey” is the timelessness of its themes and characters. Despite being written thousands of years ago, the story of Odysseus and his journey home still resonates with readers today. The themes of temptation, perseverance, and the power of the human spirit to see their loved ones/family continue to captivate readers across cultures and generations. I was also extremely surprised by the brutal violence present in Greek myths like the Odyssey. Time and time again, I think back to the scene where Odysseus returns home and orders his son Telemachus to execute the slave women who had been disloyal. This is an extremely brutal scene, and it is one of the many instances in which Odysseus’s actions are portrayed as morally ambiguous.

      1. I agree with you, I feel like the themes we continue to see even day on the biggest hits in novels, movies, and even tv shows! You could argue that these texts are more relatable touching on real human emotions, they are somewhat relatable to us the readers, unlike many modern stories. However, being written a long time ago, some beliefs and actions would make me question them because they were written by people from a very different time periods and cultures.

    6. Something that really surprised me during my time reading all of the ancient texts is how relatable and applicable they can be to our lives, despite it seeming like the opposite. I feel as though Greek Mythology is known for being extreme, from magical powers to irrational violence resulting in the death of thousands of people. Despite the exaggerated scenarios, all of these stories still have some form of moral and can connect to us in ways that we may not have noticed before. In fact, I think the extremes of all situations make it easier for us to comprehend how we understand and how we relate to the characters in each of these stories.

      1. Even when things are clearly morally wrong, they set an example for what not to do and can give some insight into why some people do the things they do, and characterize negative emotions we may be feeling sometimes.

    7. I was surprised by the fact that both of these ancient plays focused on the experiences of women as Ancient Greek culture was very patriarchal. As we learned in class, the Ancient Greek theater is a male space with all male actors, even for female roles. Given this historical context, I found it surprising that Euripides, a male poet, would write plays that would allow an audience to sympathize with the suffering of women. I think generally the experiences of women are erased from history, particularly Ancient Greek history, so I found it very refreshing to see these ancient forms of representation of women that focuses on their experiences and perspective.

    8. When reading these ancient texts, I think it was surprising at times to see how brutal some of the characters in the myths can behave. Often times, there were acts of killing and betrayal that seemed shocking and even gruesome at times. This is something that is very different and not really seen in modern texts or modern media. Additionally, some of these acts had some sort of reasoning or explanation that was to be taken away from them. All of the texts we read had underlying themes and lessons to ultimately take away, which is also very different from modern media that we consume on a daily basis. It was very interesting to read this style, and I do think it was really engaging from all the ancient texts we covered.

    9. I think what stood out to me the most while reading these texts, particularly those focusing on feminine experiences in the ancient world, is how detached they felt to me. I think one of the reasons that Circe felt so touching and profound was because it was a reinterpretation of a feminine story except it was actually told by a woman which made it feel more real and sincere. When I read stories like Medea or Euripides Trojan Women I feel disheartened reading about the experiences of these women because they are written by men and played by men and will never truly understand the imbalances between men and women in ancient cultures and t makes me wonder what women would have written about themselves at this time if they actually had the chance. Would we still see so little camaraderie and so much infighting? Was this to attempt to sew divides between ordinary women? I know some of these stories are warnings about what happens when women are given power, and I just wish we had extant literature surviving from women so we know what their lives were actually like

    10. To me, one thing that challenged me sometimes was having to remind myself that the norms were different back then and various behaviors were seen as more acceptable which today would be entirely frowned upon. On the other hand, I think it is very interesting to think about the prospect of ancient people being able to forgive characters like Odysseus for gruesome acts they commit as in some of the central stories surrounding the gods there is similar brutality. This also makes me think about how life itself must have been seen as much more fleeting in the time when these texts were originally composed and that likely influenced the way people are able to see stories like this and put value into them. Of course, the larger themes represented in these texts are not really specific to the time at all but more so just human and definitely remind me that the struggles and conflicts we have today are not specific to our time or situation but humans as a whole.

    11. The experience I had reading these ancient texts was very familiar to the experience I have consuming media today. The way certain events are conveyed in some stories felt as though they lacked emotion. I previously believed these stories as they were originally told would transport the reader into the world of gods and monsters. However, I felt nearly as detached reading them as I do consuming current media. Violence seemed to not be dwelled upon very long and extremely graphic imagery was used quite frequently. This is very reminiscent of the media we have today. I recently saw a video of some guys reviewing the new John Wick movie, and the guy doing the review was disappointed that the “kill count” was low (I believe he said John Wick killed over 100 people in this one movie). The narration of the brutalization of Polyphemus and the complete slaughter of the suitors surprised me because I did not feel like there was any sense of guilt, awe, disgust, or horror, which I imagined would be present since the people of the time are not so desensitized to violence. However, I am thinking only in terms of storytelling. Wars were definitely present in those times, so maybe that is a potential reason why the description of violence is so passive.

    12. The way we read the ancient texts is surprisingly modern, which I think is largely due to their translations into more idiomatic english. The books of the Lightning Thief and Circe also did not include the chorus which would be alongside the ancient versions of the stories. I wonder if the chorus would be different in modern interpretations of the play, and if that would affect the way the stories are read. It’s interesting to think how much is different from having that chorus in a whole play/epic poem structure, versus reading it alone in a room and whether the ancients who documented them ever considered they would be consumed in such a way.

    13. I was surprised by how much I disliked the men in the stories, particularly Odysseus. I just could not get over his disrespect of his wife and some of the women he encounters. I expected to see unequal treatment of women compared to men, but it is not the easiest read.

    1. A challenge I ran into while reading and interpreting the text was mainly due to the unique language and style of ancient Greek drama. The presence of a Chorus and the usage of poetic language meant I really had to adjust my reading strategy, as I found myself relying on footnotes and supplementary resources to fully grasp the nuanced meaning or to just simply understand what was going on. Gaining an understanding of the historical and cultural context of the play definitely helped me understand the text as a whole better.

      1. I definitely agree with this point, I’ve also found the language to be a little bit tricky when it comes to fully grappling and digesting the stories. Understanding the historical context has also been really helpful for me, and it’s prompted me to think a lot about the themes that come up over and over again in these plays. Even though the language is a little bit difficult to deal with, the themes of sexual violence and power imbalance between men and women still feels incredibly important now, which allows the plays to sort of transcend the antiquity of the language.

      2. I agree, I also found the language of ancient texts to be challenging. I especially found the poetic forms difficult to understand and required more time to decipher. Something that surprised me about the ancient texts we have read is the emotions that exist within them. Many of the texts include heavy topics and themes, which invoke very strong emotional reactions. I appreciated reading ancient texts this semester as they are so different from modern media, and it was interesting to compare and contrast the different forms of literature.

        1. I completely agree with Kendall and Andy on the idea that the language used in these texts were often difficult to interpret. Focusing more on an idea that Kendall brought up, there are also heavy topics littered throughout these texts that invoke strong emotions out of the reader. Specifically focusing on Homer’s Odysseus, the scene in which Odysseus and his men encounter the Cyclops was a really excited scene to read for me. Knowing that the group was in grave danger and not knowing how they were going to escape made this portion of the story very easy to read – I couldn’t put it down! On a more positive note, the scene where Odysseus is reunited with his son, Telemachus, was a really happy scene and, in my opinion, is a crucial scene to tie the story together and end things on a somewhat positive note.

    2. I was surprised by how engaging and relevant many of these texts still feel today. Medea in particular provoked strong reactions from me. I found Medea’s ambivalent positioning both as a murderer and as a voice for women and for immigrants to be striking, as it led me to be firmly on her side in the story even as I was struck by the horror of the violence she committed. I’ve also read Beloved before, and was interested in the (likely deliberate) parallels between Euripides’ Medea and Beloved.
      One challenging aspect for me was how normalized slavery, sexual violence, and misogyny were. I enjoyed looking at these elements critically in class, and learning about the historical context, like Zoe mentioned. Certain texts like the Iliad or Trojan Women felt more difficult to read. This was probably due to the unfamiliar format (the prominence of the chorus in Trojan Women, the epics format in the Iliad in which epithets are repeated and there are numerous allusions to it being a ‘song’ that is performed). However, even with the unfamiliar historical context / norms and the format, many of the themes in these ancient texts felt relevant and I was surprised by how they resonated with me.

      1. I completely agree when it comes to how engaging and relevant these texts feel to read today. My strongest reaction came from reading Euripides’ Trojan Women. The vivid portrayal of the horrors of war and the suffering of innocent civilians was both heartbreaking and thought-provoking. This play forced me to confront the realities of human conflict and consider the role of compassion and empathy in our modern world. In the end, I found that although challenging, reading it was definitely rewarding because I gained a new perspective on conflict both in the ancient world and the modern world.

      2. I agree. I was also surprised to find that the ancient texts that we have read/are reading are still relevant. I feel like it really shows how no matter how much things like technology advance, at the end of the day, we are all still humans and have the same emotions, from ancient Greece to today (like Odysseus’ crying in the Odyssey). Like many others are saying, I did find the language to be difficult to engage with at first, however, I feel like once I got into the mindset of reading these texts, it felt much easier. I feel like in reading these texts, I find myself paying more attention to close details of them than I would a modern day text because I have to concentrate harder to bring the meaning from the text up to its surface.

      3. I found this post very interesting, and I agree with it. There was definitely a weird feeling reading about the misogyny and sexual violence that is still so prevalent today. I think it’s also interesting to consider how this would have been received in the time it was produced, especially since it was written with the intent for men to be portraying all the characters. I think this adds another layer, as the misogyny on stage is reflected in real life.

    3. For me, the major surprise was how easy the texts were to read. I was expecting challenging literature with complicated sentence structures and vocabulary, but most of the works we read were relatively simple (in structure), almost like young adult literature. The stories remained complex without sacrificing accessibility. I think Circe provoked the strongest reaction from me, mainly because I did not know how it was going to end. From the beginning of the Odyssey, I knew Odysseus was going to eventually return home and kill the suitors. This contrasts with Circe, where each chapter brought a new surprise. Even the ending, where she turns herself mortal and finally stands up to Helios was compelling and an unexpected ending to the complex storyline.

      1. I agree about the accessibility and ease of reading of the text. In particular, I think Wilson’s translation of the Odyssey was much more accessible than when I have read the same story in other classes before, which was something that surprised me.

      2. I was similarly rather surprised at how easy the texts were for me to read, escpecially (for me) the Iliad. It was not much different from texts I read regularly in my day-to-day life, and was honestly easier for me to follow and flowed better for me than Miller’s Circe or Homer’s the Odyssey, even though I had already read and analyzed both works back in highschool. I had a bit of a harder time reading Trojan Women mostly because of it’s writing style as less of a ballad/story and more of a screen play, but even then it was still easier to follow than some Shakespeare plays I’ve read before. This might be influence by my having already been desensitized to the surprises in Circe and the Odyssey and not having read the Iliad itself before, but for me I think the Iliad provoked the strongest reaction from me. The way the grief and just poignant/sharp emotions and interpersonal relationships were written were just really compelling for me (although I’d have to say the scene with Argos in the Odyssey is in strong position for runner-up in terms of provoking a strong reaction from me).

    4. Reading ancient texts is a mixed bag, on the one hand the speaking is often so detached from modern day, making the characters feel “removed” at times. On the other hand, the emotion behind those words is very human. In elementary Latin this year, for example, we often encounter sentences that don’t make perfect sense when translated. As a result, it’s often difficult to sympathize with situations and speakers that hold this antiquated speech. However, the situations are extremely emotional and easy to understand. The Iliad, for example, provoked the strongest emotions in me, when Andromache was forced to stand by and watch her son be thrown off the wall. It is a situation that is so easy to sympathize with, and feel absolutely gut wrenched by. Overall, no matter the phrasing and language of an ancient text, the characters are what ultimately made the texts understandable and provoking.

    5. I think the biggest different I found between ancient literature and modern media was the limitation of the mediums. I think one thing that we often take for granted with modern media is the number of ways to create an artistic adaptation of ancient texts and we as a consumer get to choose how we want to experience media. Whether we want to read, watch, or listen there are usually ways to experience all and especially in the case of adaptations. However, there is a benefit to reading ancient literature since the writers are actively trying to push the boundaries of their medium and so we get to see how the ancient Greeks thought that they could best convey ideas and emotion through writing.

      1. I agree that people take the freedom and opportunities provided by modern media for granted. There is no shortage of adaptations of various Greek myths, including Medea, that individuals can be inclined to engage in. Whereas before one could largely only visualize and experience a text with their own interpretation in mind, now audiences can experience how directors, artists, musicians, and other authors interpreted or adapted the same text and get a new experience.

    6. For me, it was interesting to re-engage with the ancient texts of Euripides’ Medea and Homer’s Odyssey. I first read these texts in high school and like most people the language and style of these Greek dramas made it difficult for me to understand what was happening. My experience reading The Odyssey was very different this time because I no longer saw Odysseus as a hero, but rather as a flawed man. Also, I think I underestimated how violent and brutal the slaughter of the suitors was. I was surprised with the treatment of the slave women and their unjust deaths revealed the mysogyny that existed in ancient Greek tragedy. While reading Medea, I found myself visualizing the characters on a stage as the writing style produced this effect for me,
      making it easier for me to digest the story. Reading these ancient texts the second time around made me recognize the bigger themes of the story, rather than just understanding the literature at surface level I was able to see the tropes present in the plot.

    7. I think something that surprised me about all of these ancient texts was the much larger involvement of woman than I had originally anticipated. While I did know that there were some women mentioned in Greek myths, I thought that it was mostly from the male perspective. It makes more sense now the role of woman in Greek mythology after taking a closer look at all of these texts.

  1. I do think that engaging with the ancient texts alongside modern ones (like Circe’s more modern storytelling in a novel form) and more ancient ones (like Medea’s original purpose as a written play to be performed for a yearly festival) side by side really just emphasizes how strange it is for me to read these ancient texts alone for a class (In classes devoted to tragedy it can almost feel easier to reconcile the differences between contexts). With Circe it felt natural to curl up and devour the story on my own, but reading Medea alone right afterwards feels like missing some kind of piece that even just reading the lines aloud can’t really capture no matter how I try.

    1. I completely agree that reading the ancient texts alongside the modern ones was very engaging. I found that it had many benefits to my understanding. The contemporary versions, like you mentioned the modern storytelling in Circe, provide a clearer understanding of the meaning and intent of the original text. Ancient texts can be written in archaic language and often use unfamiliar expressions. Reading the modern versions alongside the original text helped me appreciate the beauty and complexity of the language. It is also important to recognize the different cultural and religious traditions that modern versions of ancient texts can bring light to, thus providing a broader perspective on the text and its meaning.

      1. I definitely agree with what was said above, I think that the comparison between ancient and modern texts gives us a really interesting opportunity to compare and contrast different language and cultural values which have changed over time. I think one particularly interesting vein of this is through the exploration of what a hero is and how that has changed. The ways in which ancient texts depict a hero and modern ones differ in many ways especially in the way we evaluate morality and purpose. It is really interesting to see how these images have changed over time.

  2. I think that reading ancient texts can be challenging because I bring a modern perspective to them. I have found that I will sometimes interpret lines differently than an ancient audience would have. Also, I found the death scenes and some other climatic moments in the ancient texts that we read to be surprising because there it usually only uses a short line to describe the important event or the death itself. For example when the women in Trojan Women were preparing to ask for Athena’s help there was a lot of description about how the women prepared to ask for her help and only one short line saying that she didn’t respond. This seemed really different for me because I feel like modern texts would have given a longer description about Athena not responding. This style of writing was difficult for me to get used to at first, but I like that it allows for more of a focus on the emotions that the characters feel at the moment.

Leave a comment