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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 Liminal and Universal: Changing Interpretations of Hekate

Hekate is considered one of the most enigmatic figures of Greek religion. In the Theogony, she is referred to as a universal goddess. Nevertheless, her figure transforms into that of a chthonic figure, associated with witchcraft and the restless dead. This paper examines how Hekate’s role in the Greek pantheon has changed over time, and with what figures she has been syncretized or associated with in order to bring about such changes. In doing so, three images of the same goddess emerge: Hekate the universal life-bringing deity, Hekate the liminal goddess of the crossroads, and Hekate the chthonic overseer of witchcraft and angry spirits.

The Advantage of the Stronger: Hercules and Cacus in Vergil's Aeneid

The Hercules and Cacus episode in Book VIII highlights the problematic nature of Aeneas’ exploits throughout the Aeneid. Through the violence of Hercules, Vergil makes the reader question whether a story like the founding of Rome and its eventual imperial expansion can be as cut and dry as the story of a rugged hero slaughtering someone whose name literally means “evil one” might superficially seem. Calling into question Aeneas’ morality and his justification for settling in Italy in turn casts doubt on Augustus’ own means of attaining power.

The Hercules and Cacus episode is fundamental to our understanding of the Aeneid as a whole inasmuch as it brings up the question of right. The question of the rightful owner of Geryon’s cattle finds its parallel in Aeneas and Turnus’ dispute over betrothal to Lavinia, as well as in Augustus’ contested claim to rule Rome. The Italy of Hercules’ day, in which violence determines right, must be compared with the universal empire Augustus will eventually establish. This paper explores to what extent the Hercules and Cacus episode can influence our understanding of Aeneas and Augustus and how Vergil might be reacting to the political climate of his day through his poetry.

N.B. I give citations in Latin throughout the paper, with my own English translations in the footnotes.

Charting the Unknown: Alice Kober, Her Phonetic Chart, and the Decipherment of Linear B

This paper analyzes a phonetic chart of Linear B symbols found in the notebook of Dr. Alice E. Kober to understand how accurately she identified phonetic relationships between the signs and how this chart might have influenced Michael Ventris’s later decipherment. Of the 87 signs in Linear B, only twenty signs were plotted on Kober’s chart, and only ten of which were published in her 1948 article, “The Minoan Scripts: Fact and Theory”. The remaining ten signs had been written tentatively in pencil and remained unpublished. The only notes about how Kober created these charts were three assumptions she placed alongside her published chart, but no explanation was given about the remaining ten signs on her chart. By looking at the current, accepted phonetic values of each sign, one can identify possible reasons behind the placement of certain signs relative to others and the accuracy of Kober’s analysis. Then, I will examine some of Ventris’s phonetic charts and various writings to understand how Kober’s work impacted the decipherment of Linear B. Ultimately, I will argue that although Kober’s published chart was fairly accurate in the few signs she plotted, Ventris decided to identify the phonetic values himself. In doing so he would still adopt Kober’s grid layout, her use of alternate spellings, and her theory of how language inflection showed itself in syllabary scripts to create his own phonetic charts until his final decipherment of Linear B in 1952.

First in Flight: Etruscan Winged "Demons"

Etruscan winged Underworld figures (commonly referred to as winged “demons”) represent one of the most fascinating and least understood aspects of funerary iconography in ancient Etruria. Their function, along with their origin, has long been the subject of scholarly debates. However, over the last two decades, scholars have begun to take a closer look at these chthonic figures. Recent scholarship has begun to provide answers to many of the most fundamental questions concerning their role, even if disagreements remain over their murky origins. Expanding on interpretations that have cast new light on how these winged (and non winged) Underworld figures functioned, questions concerning Etruscan religious beliefs and funerary ideology can now be reconsidered.