Department of ClassicsUniversity of Cincinnati
Department of Classics

The 2017 edition of the Blegen Bulletin is hot off the press.

BB 2017 cover

Read the new edition of our newsletter here.

For history buffs, the 200920102011, and 2016 editions are still available.


The headline of the Times of London read “Masterpiece sealstone led experts to shed tears.” The New York Times quoted Malcolm Wiener: “The stunning combat scene on the seal stone, one of the greatest masterpieces of Aegean art, bears comparison with some of the drawings in the Michelangelo show now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
Perhaps the finest Minoan glyptic work ever found, the Pylos Combat Agate depicts a battlefield scene. A lightly clothed and armed warrior delivers the kill stroke with his sword to a heavily armed opponent, while a third, defeated, warrior lies dead under their feet.
This exquisite miniature is now fully published for a scholarly audience in Hesperia, journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. See

All images of the Combat Agate are produced through RTI photography in order to keep the entire curved surface of the object in focus, while emphasizing details of engraving that are virtually invisible on the surface of the stone itself. These are copyrighted by the Palace of Nestor Excavations of the University of Cincinnati. Permissions to reproduce images of the Combat Agate and and other images photographed on behalf of the Palace of Nestor Excavations may be obtained by request to the Department of Classics. These should be addressed to Ms. Carol Hershenson, Permissions, Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Ohio 45221-0226 or sent by email to Ms. Hershenson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


On Thursday September 7th at 7pm in the Patricia Corbett Theater, the UC Department of Classics will co-host a performance of Bryan Doerries’ award-winning Theater of War. David Strathairn (Good Night, And Good Luck, the Bourne Ultimatum, Lincoln) will play Ajax, Marholaine Goldsmith (Compromise, AfterWords, Dress) will play Tecmessa, and Bryan Doerries himself will play the role of the chorus.On Thursday September 7th at 7pm in the Patricia Corbett Theater, the UC Department of Classics will co-host a performance of Bryan Doerries’ award-winning Theater of War. David Strathairn (Good Night, And Good Luck, the Bourne Ultimatum, Lincoln) will play Ajax, Marholaine Goldsmith (Compromise, AfterWords, Dress) will play Tecmessa, and Bryan Doerries himself will play the role of the chorus.

Theater of War is an innovative public health project that presents readings of ancient Greek plays, Sophocles' Ajax and Philoctetes, as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the challenges faced by service members, veterans, their families, caregivers and communities. Using Sophocles' plays to forge a common vocabulary for openly discussing the visible and invisible wounds of war on individuals, families and communities, these events are aimed at generating compassion and understanding between diverse audiences, while mobilizing citizens and resources to help improve the lives of service members, veterans, their families, and people in their communities. Each performance is followed by community panelist remarks and a facilitated town hall discussion.
Sophocles’ Ajax tells the story of a fierce warrior who slips into a depression near the end of The Trojan War, after losing his best friend, Achilles. Struggling with survivor’s guilt and feeling betrayed by his command after being passed over for the honor of Achilles’ armor, Ajax attempts to murder his commanding officers, fails, and—ultimately—takes his own life. The play tells the story of the events leading up to his suicide, as well as how his wife and troops attempt to intervene before it's too late. 
It has been suggested that ancient Greek drama was a form of storytelling and ritual reintegration for combat veterans by combat veterans. Sophocles was a general. During the 5th Century BC, Athens was at war for more than 80 years, often on multiple fronts. The audience for whom Ajax was performed consisted of nearly 17,000 citizen-soldiers, and the actors themselves were most likely combat veterans and cadets. Seen through this lens, ancient Greek tragedy appears to have been a powerful public health tool aimed at helping service members and veterans confront and address the moral, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of war, as well as return to civilian life between deployments. 
This event is made possible through the generous support and partnership of: the Office of the Provost, the Department of Classics, the CCM Harmony Fund, the TAFT Research Center, the Helen Weinberger Center for the study of Drama and Playwriting, and the A&S Deans Office.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. For questions contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download the poster for distribution here




After publishing her first book last year Lauren Donovan Ginsberg was walking in the clouds. Now after winning the American Academy in Rome’s prestigious Rome Prize this month, she must be roping the moon.  

The assistant professor of classics at the University of Cincinnati was one of six scholars awarded a Rome Prize fellowship in the field of Ancient Studies.



Ancient Athens was preeminent because of her naval power, and with the navy’s might came the prestige of her harbor city the Piraeus, where naval bases housed hundreds of triremes. The architectural glories of the Acropolis stood in second place to her naval bases, and as an unnamed Athenian author proclaimed, “O Athens, queen of all cities! How fair your naval base! How fair your Parthenon! How fair your Piraeus!”

In his lecture, The Ancient Athenian Naval Bases in the Piraeus – The Backbone of the World’s First Democracy, Professor Bjørn Lovén will explore how the ten-year Zea Harbor Project, digging on land and underwater from 2002 to 2012, uncovered extensive archaeological remains of the Athenian naval facilities. The lecture will show how the archaeological finds inform us about developments from the dawn of Athenian power in the late 6th and early 5th centuries BC, to the young democracy at the time of the Persian Wars, to the age of empire when Athens ruled the eastern Mediterranean, and to the waning years of the 4th century BC when Athens stood in the shadow of Macedonia.

Professor Bjørn Lovén is a Research Associate with the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen, and is an expert in the archaeology of ancient harbors and submerged sites; he is the Director of the Zea Harbor Project at ancient Piraeus in Greece, Co-Director of the Lechaion Harbor Project in Corinth, Greece, and has done extensive fieldwork at underwater and harbor sites around the Mediterranean.
The Zea Harbor Project is a collaboration between the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and the Ephorate of West Attica, Piraeus and Islands (both under the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports), the Saxo Institute, the University of Copenhagen, and the Danish Institute at Athens under the Danish Ministry of Education; it is funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.

The lecture will take place at Blegen Building Room 308, on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. It will begin at 6:00 PM, and is free and open to the public. It is part of the Archaeological Institute of America’s National Lecture Program, and funding for it has been provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in New York, which strives to support the work of scholars in the fields of ancient art.

A full size pdf version of the announcement poster can be downloaded here.

breyer barendt

Katie Breyer and Jack Barendt are undergraduate students in Classics. Jack is also a Semple Scholar. The recently reported on their year abroad at the Centro in Rome:

While our studies at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (the “Centro”) are based in Rome, our classes and experiences are not limited to the city itself. As students of the Classics, we have gained the opportunity to put what we have learned from the University of Cincinnati’s Classics Department into a more tangible context. One of the most exciting aspects of the program is that classes are held on site, allowing us to reconstruct the ancient city through frequent site visits, such as to the Imperial Fora, the Curia in the Roman Forum, and the halls of Nero’s infamous Domus Aurea. And yet, we are not limited to Rome, visiting sites around the Bay of Naples, as well as Sicily, such as Pompeii, Cumae, Syracuse, and Agrigento.

We came from the University of Cincinnati with a wide range of experiences and skills and interests; from the archaeological and material to the language and history of Rome. The Classics department provided us with the foundations we needed to in order to more fully engage with the currriculum at the Centro. The Centro has allowed us to expand upon what we already knew as well as challenged us to examine the Roman world through a closer perspective. Our experience at the Centro has made us eager to return to the department and more fully engage in our classes. We will bring different perspectives into the classroom and enagage the younger students with an interest in understanding the Roman world. We are incredibly grateful for all that the Classics Department has done for us, allowing us to enjoy such an enriching experience and promoting our studies of the Classics.


Classics congratulates alumnus Tom Tsuchiya (Class Civ ’95) who won the 2016 Arts & Sciences Distinguish Alumni award. Tom is a sculptor with roots in the humanistic traditions of ancient Greece and Rome. In Cincinnati he is famous for his portraits of Cincinnati Reds baseball players in front of Great American Ballpark. In these bronze sculptures, he captures the personality and character of his subjects, often spending time getting to know them before starting a design. He is now the official sculptor of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, responsible for the plaques with relief portraits dedicated to honor inductees. In every case his aim is to reflect the character and achievements of his subjects, their ethos and pathos, concepts he learned here, in the Blegen Library.

Tom also runs an environmentally responsible studio and gives back to the community. His “Atlas Recycled” sculpture emphasizes the importance of environmental stewardship for the future of our planet. Like Atlas, we hold the Earth in our hands. Young apprentices from Boys Hope/Girls Hope often help out in his studio, and gleaming metallic commission doubles as a receptacle for donated canned goods.

“Atlas Recycled” will soon be installed in the lobby of Blegen Library. Stay tuned for updates and an opening celebration.

Ginsberg StagingMemory

Lauren Donovan Ginsberg’s wider research focuses on the intersection of drama, politics, and memory in early Imperial Rome. All of these interests contributed to her new book: Staging Memory, Staging Strife: Empire and Civil War in the Octavia out from Oxford University Press this December. This book focuses on a play named after Nero’s wife, Octavia, which happens to be the sole surviving history play from ancient Rome. The Octavia dramatizes the notorious age of Nero, the emperor’s murder of his first wife, and the events that led to his fall from power. At the core of her book is a question of the role that literature, and especially drama, plays in the way that we remember the past.

The turbulent decade of the 60s CE brought Rome to the brink of collapse. It began with Nero's ruthless elimination of Julio-Claudian rivals and ended in his suicide and the civil wars that followed. Suddenly Rome was forced to confront an imperial future as bloody as its Republican past and a ruler from outside the house of Caesar. The anonymous historical drama Octavia is the earliest literary witness to this era of uncertainty and upheaval. In Staging Memory, Staging Strife, Ginsberg offers a new reading of how the play intervenes in the contests over memory after Nero's fall. Though Augustus and his heirs had claimed that the Principate solved Rome's curse of civil war, the play reimagines early imperial Rome as a landscape of civil strife with a ruling family waging war both on itself and on its people. In doing so, the Octavia shows how easily empire becomes a breeding ground for the passions of discord.

In order to rewrite the history of Rome's first imperial dynasty, the Octavia engages with the literature of Julio-Claudian Rome, using the words of Rome's most celebrated authors to stage a new reading of that era and its ruling family. In doing so, the play opens a dialogue about literary versions of history and about the legitimacy of those historical accounts. Through an innovative combination of intertextual analysis and cultural memory theory, Ginsberg contextualizes the roles that literature and the literary manipulation of memory play in negotiating the transition between the Julio-Claudian and Flavian regimes. Her book claims for the Octavia a central role in current debates over both the ways in which Nero and his family were remembered as well as the politics of literary and cultural memory in the early Roman empire.

Hollywood and modern pop culture often view Nero as the evilest of Rome’s evils. Recent scholarship, however, has begun to question the basis of this image: what sources do we have for it? In whose interest was it that Nero be remembered as a monster? This book takes these questions back to their beginning by examining how Roman drama and the stage reinterpreted Neronian history for a world without Nero.