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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The Berkeley Undergraduate Journal of Classics is committed to the progress and proliferation of scholarship in the field of Classics and to providing a common medium through which undergraduates from all relevant disciplines can actively engage in one another’s work. In order to establish a channel for interdepartmental exchange and collaboration, we seek to publish exceptional papers and translations from a wide range of fields pertaining to Classics and the world of the ancient Mediterranean.

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The Divine-Human Aporia in Presocratic Philosophy

The Presocratic philosophers of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. have traditionally been interpreted simply as the prologue to the beginning of Western science and philosophy. The secondary literature produced by many 20th and 21st century philosophers insists that the primary accomplishment of the Presocratic movement was the decisive rejection of the mythic cosmos of Homer and Hesiod in favor of independent rational inquiry. This paper seeks to contest this interpretation, by drawing attention to the Hesiodic elements in Presocratic philosophy and theology. Far from banishing the divine from the cosmsos, the fragments and testimonia of the Milesians, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, the Pythagorean movement, and Empedocles evidence a desire to radicalize the traditional Hesiodic attributes of divinity: eternity, sovereignty, and justice. However in doing so, the Presocratics entangled themselves in the divine-human aporia that continues to structure Western theological discourse: the problem of making the divine conception humanly accessible without making it merely human. In attempting to elevate and dignify the divine realm—criticizing the poetic tradition that seemed to make the gods merely human—the Presocratics made the divine appear inhuman. This eventually produced the violent popular opposition that led to the destruction of the Pythagorean communities of southern Italy and the prosecution of Anaxagoras and Socrates for impiety.

Hellenistic Jewelry & the Commoditization of Elite Greek Women

The paper concentrates on Hellenistic jewelry, which dates from the fourth to first century BCE, and strives to answer the question: how do the different decorative functions of Hellenistic jewelry represent the various roles and social obligations of its elite Greek female wearers? Four thematic parallels exist between jewelry and women, including beauty, sexuality, fertility, and wealth. To examine these connections, this paper studies classical literary sources that focus on female sexuality and the social expectations of women. Examples include segments taken from the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, the poetry of Sappho and Ibycus, an epithalamium, and Plutarch’s Life of Demetrius. The content of these sources are extracted and compared to the decorative functions of four Hellenistic jewelry pieces, which include an embellished necklace, pair of Eros earrings, diadem, and jewelry set. Based upon the research, physical attributes of Hellenistic jewelry reflect the responsibilities of elite Greek women to groom their appearance, be sexually desirable, produce legitimate heirs, and demonstrate wealth and prestige. By analyzing these similarities, one becomes aware of the extreme commoditization of ancient Greek women.

The Ultimate Romana Mors

The suicide of M. Porcius Cato at the end of the Roman Republic shifted the Roman attitude towards self-killing. Suicides before Cato were intended to avoid imminent shame or defeat; however, after the example of Cato, suicide became an act to be imitated: it was a means of achieving glory. This paper treats the evolution of suicide, before and after Cato, and the impact of his suicide.

Catullus and the Lyric Voice

The Lyric Voice can be explored to show the nexus of interlocutors clamouring to be heard in Catullus’ poetry, but ultimately, it is Catullus himself who frames and controls all interaction. In addressing his poems to specific people at specific times, Catullus attempts to be constantly present with the reader. He invites the reader to live the poem, to allow it to transcend the petty constraints of time and space, then elsewhere reminds the reader of the literary artifice which is innate in writing about writing. He points outside the poem, both to bring the readers into his world, but also to force them to recognise that it is fake and created. Playing with Sappho, Catullus recognises how liminal translation is, and questions the locus of the voice in that dialogue. Voice is most investigated through silence however, and Catullus explores everyone’s silences; those he addresses, the readers and even his own. Ultimately though, Catullus comes out on top, these are his poems, he is never silent, and to engage with him is to have your mouth filled with his words. Just as he silences those who can speak, he breathes life into a variety of personae loquentes that litter his poem, such as his phaselus, whose epigraphic tone helps Catullus capture and freeze a moment in time. The Lyric Voice exerts immense influence over how we interact with these poems, and if we listen closely, we can appreciate the voices Catullus does and does not allow us to hear.


Translations of Three Callimachus Epigrams (Epigrams 44, 59 and 42)

Having first come across the name Callimachus in the opening line of Ezra Pound’s ‘Homage to Sextus Propertius’, I became enticed by the so called ‘shades of Callimachus’ described therein.  His work carries such variety within it, from odes and hymns to critical discussions and the epigrams which are of particular interest to me, that I was surprised that nothing of his had ever invaded the prescribed texts in the course of my study of Classical literature.  Here, I submit translations of Epigrams 41, 43 and 58 (as numbered by Pfeiffer).  This small selection, to my mind at least, captures some of the tone and beauty of language evident in the sixty-four epigrams that are extant (the Byzantine encyclopaedia, Suda, numbers his epigrammatical works in the region of 800).  What attracts me to these short writings, and to these particular three, is the atmospheric tone and substance of feeling created in such a brief number of lines, the essence of which one can only hope to communicate in some measure through an English translation.

Poems in Various Meters

I am a pseudo-intellectual, an ex-hellenophile, a washed out poet.