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Barbara Graziosi: Sebald is my husband, 20 December 2012

... Last Christmas I bought for the husband Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues played by Nikolayeva and a night for two in the Lake District. Both were safe choices. Johannes had been playing Nikolayeva on YouTube for some weeks, and the Lake District is Alpine enough for Johannes to feel at home, yet close enough to our actual home (Durham) to make it viable ...

Where’s the Gravy?

Barbara Graziosi: Homeric Travel, 27 August 2009

Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Penguin, 528 pp., £10.99, September 2009, 978 0 14 024499 1
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... Homeric poetry is vivid and precise. We can smell the dust, hear the din of battle and follow the tip of a spear as it inflicts a wound ‘between the neck and the collarbone’. Even the gods – those obsolete pagan idols – seem familiar. Apollo kicks down the Achaean wall like a child who piles sand by the seashore and makes a tower to amuse himself in his innocence and then, still playing, wrecks it with his hands and feet ...

Flower or Fungus?

Barbara Graziosi: Bacchylides, 31 July 2008

Bacchylides: Politics, Performance, Poetic Tradition 
by David Fearn.
Oxford, 428 pp., £70, July 2007, 978 0 19 921550 8
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... In the early fifth century BCE, Bacchylides’ career was at its height: his services as poet, composer, choreographer and impresario were in demand throughout the Greek world. He delivered theatrical spectacles on commission, composing songs for a wide range of occasions, training choruses to sing and dance to them, and organising their musical accompaniment ...

Statues crumbled

Barbara Graziosi: Atheism in the Ancient World, 28 July 2016

Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World 
by Tim Whitmarsh.
Faber, 290 pp., £25, February 2016, 978 0 571 27930 2
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... Zeus delivers​ the first speech in Homer’s Odyssey, and it soon transpires that he is in a petulant mood. ‘This is horrible!’ he thunders. ‘See how mortals blame us, the gods! They say that all bad things come from us, but it is through their own foolishness that people suffer beyond their portion.’ It isn’t immediately clear why Zeus sounds so frustrated, even impotent, despite being ruler of the universe, but on closer inspection it becomes apparent that he suffers from a common complaint ...

In Her Philosopher’s Cloak

Barbara Graziosi: Hypatia, 17 August 2017

Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher 
by Edward J. Watts.
Oxford, 205 pp., £19.99, April 2017, 978 0 19 021003 8
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... On a​ fatal day, in the holy season of Lent, Hypatia was torn from her chariot, stripped naked, dragged to the church, and inhumanly butchered by the hands of Peter the reader, and a troop of savage and merciless fanatics: her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames.’ This is Gibbon’s description of the murder of the mathematician and philosopher Hypatia in 415 ad ...

Big in Ephesus

James Davidson: The Olympians, 4 December 2014

The Gods of Olympus: A History 
by Barbara Graziosi.
Profile, 273 pp., £18.99, November 2013, 978 1 84668 321 3
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... Cronos and Rhea. In witchy Thessaly it seems likely that Hecate Enodia would have been chosen. Barbara Graziosi​ turns out to be uninterested in what it means to be Olympian or in who or what the gods of Olympus are, glossing them merely as ‘the supreme’, ‘the 12 main’ or ‘the most important’ gods. She is more concerned with their ...

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