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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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A Tacitean Tragedy: Theatric Structure, Character, and Space in the Downfall of Messalina

The betrayal of Valeria Messalina, dramatically recounted by Tacitus in Annales 11.26-11.38, represents one of the greatest scandals of Emperor Claudius’ reign. Messalina’s boldness in choosing a new husband, Gaius Silius, in Claudius’ place and without his knowledge demonstrated the Emperor’s frailty in curbing the excesses of his own household. Tacitus’ account of the entire episode bears uncanny structural, conventional, and spatial resemblances to the customs of Greek tragedy – parallels which imbue the Messalina affair with a greater sense of didacticism and drama. It is through this tragedic lens that Tacitus, with his usual cynicism and disdain, successfully conveys how far the Principate had strayed from the idealized Augustan values upon which it was founded.

Colors of Conquest: A Regional Survey of Hellenistic Wall Painting

Abstract: Of all that survives in the form of artistic and architectural expression from the Hellenistic world, wall and panel painting are arguably the most underrepresented. In the case of painted wooden panels, or pinakes, that served as something akin to portable canvases for Greek and Hellenistic painters, the long span of over two thousand years has not been kind. Wooden panels, however, were not the only medium on which painters chose to apply their craft. A modest corpus of both painted friezes and painted panels has survived on the plastered walls of monumental Hellenistic tombs, from elite Hellenistic residences, and from mid to late first century BCE elite Roman domestic contexts. This paper undertakes a brief survey of these surviving remnants of the rich and prolific legacy of Hellenistic painting.


Dearest to be Man's Companion: Hermes, Divine Aid and Agency

This paper compares passages from Book 24 of the Iliad, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the Odyssey and argues that Hermes's portrayal in archaic Greek literature is characterized by a high degree of sympathy for those under his guidance and a hands-on approach to divine intervention. In particular, parallels are drawn between Hermes's escorting of Priam to and from Achilles's camp, and his guidance of both Persephone and Herakles out of the underworld. These examples are contrasted with Hermes's role as a psychopomp and are used to argue that these texts display an understanding of divine aid that is not limited to mere function but which takes into account the personality and autonomous agency of individual deities.


Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book I, Lines 539 through 559

Ovid’s tales of metamorphoses are beautiful and terrifying. My introduction to Ovid was this tale, of Daphne and Apollo, in Latin. I was fascinated by the language swirling around Daphne’s metamorphosis into a tree while simultaneously horrified by the descriptions of Apollo’s advance. However, reading English translations, I was surprised by a glossing over of the terror Ovid’s transformed feel. One example is the translation of figura in line 547. Cassell’s lists possible translations as form, shape, figure, and size. But it is often translated as beauty.[1] Why is this, of all possible definitions, chosen? As we learn later, it is not Daphne’s beauty that is destroyed, but her body and her humanity; she becomes a splendid tree. Beauty implies a simple makeover, not a desperate cry for divine transformation into anything that will not attract rape.

This passage of Daphne’s tale works as a stand-alone poem. I selected two short sections (italics) that I translated three times each—from what I felt was the lightest possible English construction of the Latin to the harshest. Each provides a different intensity of experience—does Apollo say no to rest in his negat? Or deny rest?[2] Or both? None of the translations contradict each other, but they do tell different stories about the assault Daphne experienced at the hands of Apollo—an experience still relevant in our culture, today.

[1] Frank Justus Miller, trans., Ovid’s Metamorphoses, rev. ed. Loeb Classical Library 48 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 41 and Charles Martin, trans., Ovid’s Metamorphoses (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004), 37, for both an old and recent example of figura translated as beauty.

[2] Miller translated requiem negat as “gave her no time to rest,” (41) Martin as “giving her no pause” (37).


Translation of Vergil's Aeneid -- Bk. II: XL-LVI

I originally translated Book II of Vergil’s Aeneid for my advanced placement Latin course in high school; two years later, I returned to the translation of the Aeneid for Professor Carrie Mowbray’s Latin course, which focused on an in-depth, thorough examination of the Aeneid (more specifically, Books I-VI) in both Latin and English. This excerpt taken from Book II has remained a favorite of mine for years, as the vivid imagery and language utilized allow readers to envision the most detailed of scenes. Vergil’s personification of the Trojan Horse is the prime reason this excerpt has always appealed to me. Of course, Laocoon’s famous line, “quidquid id est, timeo Danaos dona ferentis,” is oft-cited throughout ancient literature, on account of its structure and importance to the Aeneid’s plot. My translation aims to highlight the vivacity of Vergil’s poetry, in order to allow the readers to conjure up uniquely graphic and evocative scenes.