Emily Wilson

Emily Wilson is a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her translation of the Iliad is due in September.

The​ first-century Stoic philosopher and teacher Epictetus was an enslaved person who succeeded in getting an education and, eventually, his freedom. Images of freedom, slavery and self-belonging (oikoiesis) recur in his teaching. ‘A slave is always praying to be set free,’ he writes. He evokes the horrors of enslavement by describing the suffering of caged animals and birds...


Not the Only One

4 August 2022

Emily Wilson writes: Fred Clough is right. I meant to say that, according to what I was told at the site, the Brauron bridge is the only one from ‘classical’ Greece – dating from the fifth century – not the only one from ‘ancient’ Greece; it is quite true that there are older surviving stone bridges.

Diary: Artemis is with us

Emily Wilson, 4 August 2022

The girls who went to ancient Brauron to undergo the symbolic loss of their girlhood would have known that for them, as for their mothers, marriage might well mean death. Many would already have lost their own mothers or aunts or cousins to childbirth: part of the festival involved offering up these women’s garments to the goddess.


Macaroni in a Pot

21 October 2021

Emily Wilson writes: Translating comic poetry from one language and culture to another is an extremely difficult task. Any­one who attempts to convey the vast range of registers in Aristophanes, from the ridic­ulous and vulgar to the high-falutin’ and lyrical, is to be commended. In our vis­ions of Aristophanes’ gushing flow of ling­uistic inventiveness, Stephen Halliwell and I do not disagree....

Old Comedy anticipated modern sci-fi, and shows like The Good Place, in its willingness to carry out fantastical thought experiments (talking frogs, a city of birds, a singing chorus of metaphysically inclined clouds, or, weirdest of all, women with real political power), and considered their social and political repercussions. Like pantomime or Punch and Judy, it included formulaic riffs on falling over, violence and cross-dressing. But the lush comic hip-hop of Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B is one of the most useful modern analogues, because it illustrates the core element of Old Comedy that is most often obscured in contemporary Anglophone translations – the flow. Aristophanes, like the creators of ‘WAP’, was a musician, songwriter, choreographer and poet, and his linguistic effects depend, like theirs, on the artful manipulation of rhythm and sound in words and imagery. The poetic affinity between rap and Old Comedy is explored in Spike Lee’s film Chi-Raq, a hip-hop adaptation of Lysistrata set on the South Side of Chicago.

Good Jar, Bad Jar: Whose ‘Iliad’?

Ange Mlinko, 2 November 2023

‘When women are marginalised, enslaved and silenced, very few men will be capable of any form of kindness,’ Emily Wilson remarks. It is no small thing for Homer to have noticed.

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Should a translator try to shine a light through the fog or to replicate it? What makes that question so hard to answer is that fog isn’t all there is in The Odyssey. Wary manoeuvrings through the mists...

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How much weight​ should we give to unpleasant revelations about the private lives of thinkers? It partly depends on what kind of thinker we’re talking about. When it was discovered a few...

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Socrates in his cell, drinking hemlock. Cato at Utica, disembowelling himself not once but twice. And Seneca, with cuts in his arms and legs, waiting for the blood to trickle out of his...

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Into Extra Time: Living too long

Deborah Steiner, 23 February 2006

So great was the Greeks’ concern with living too long – what Emily Wilson calls ‘overliving’– that they had a cautionary myth about it. The immortal rosy-fingered...

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