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Women at the Mercy of Men

Simon Goldhill: Greek Gynaecology

4 March 1999
Hippocrates’ Women: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece 
by Helen King.
Routledge, 322 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 415 13895 7
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... There is a disease which affects young girls, particularly around the onset of menstruation. It is known colloquially as ‘the horrors’, and its symptoms are evident. The disease makes adolescent girls violently aggressive, and commands them ‘to leap around, to fall down into wells and to hang themselves’ – to ‘take on a desire for death, as if it were a good thing’. Although, as with ...

Take old urine and slag iron

Simon Goldhill: Magic in the ancient world

3 September 1998
Magic in the Ancient World 
by Fritz Graf.
Harvard, 318 pp., £23.50, February 1998, 0 674 54151 0
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... Greece has its canonical witches. There is Medea, barbarian and jilted lover, with her flaming poisons. Homer’s Circe, often allegorised as a figure of lust, who turns Odysseus’ men into pigs and takes him to bed for a year. In the Alexandrian poet, Theocritus, the deserted Simaetha, a petit-bourgeois woman, is desperate to enchant her lover back to her bed. This list makes the association of magic ...

Cures for Impotence

James Davidson

19 October 1995
Foucault’s Virginity: Ancient Erotic Fiction and the History of Sexuality 
by Simon Goldhill.
Cambridge, 194 pp., £30, January 1995, 0 521 47372 1
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... the meanings of making love without reference to cultural conventions. A theory which claims to challenge universalising notions of sexuality depends on universalising interpretations of sex. As SimonGoldhill shows in his subtle and complex new book, Foucault’s Virginity, antiquity was not immune to the argument from nature, although there it turns up in strange and unexpected guises that might ...

Oh, you clever people!

Tom Crewe: The Unrelenting Bensons

19 April 2017
A Very Queer Family Indeed: Sex, Religion and the Bensons in Victorian Britain 
by Simon Goldhill.
Chicago, 337 pp., £24.50, October 2016, 978 0 226 39378 0
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... he be buried in a loose-lidded coffin in a vault with steps leading to a trapdoor, the key to which should be left at his side.) Or perhaps it is both simpler and more complicated. ‘Writing,’ SimonGoldhill declares in his slippery new book about the Bensons, ‘is a pathological response to being in a family.’ There are​ other questions worth asking. Why do we care? What exactly is the ...

An Easy Lay

James Davidson: Greek tragedy

30 September 1999
Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy 
edited by Simon Goldhill and Robin Osborne.
Cambridge, 417 pp., £45, June 1997, 0 521 64247 7
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The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy 
edited by P.E. Easterling.
Cambridge, 410 pp., £14.95, October 1997, 0 521 42351 1
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Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning 
by David Wiles.
Cambridge, 130 pp., £13.95, August 1999, 0 521 66615 5
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... every time we put clothes on or speak or step out of doors, in what ways does Athens differ from, say, Renaissance London or Sixties Indonesia or an Internet discussion-group, in its performativity? SimonGoldhill, editor of an extremely diverse collection, conscientiously emphasises the ‘different levels and sites’ of Athenian performance, its ‘complexity and range’, ‘so much more dynamic ...


Marina Warner: Medea

3 December 2015
... to bits – just as Peneleos hacked his neck below the ear and the blade sank clean through, nothing held but a flap of skin, the head swung loose to the side as Lycon slumped down to the ground. SimonGoldhill, who advised the creators of the event, told us at the start that what was being done ‘was remarkably Greek’, that at the Great Panathenaia, Homer was recited in the theatre on the ...


James Davidson: Apollonios Rhodios

5 March 1998
Apollonios Rhodios: The Argonautika 
translated by Peter Green.
California, 480 pp., £45, November 1997, 0 520 07686 9
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... forgotten when a literary critical cavalry, raising the standards of Context, Irony and Deconstruction, rode up in the Eighties. Chief among the leaders of this mission are the Cambridge classicists SimonGoldhill and Richard Hunter, who has written a book on Apollonius (The ‘Argonautica’ of Apollonius: Literary Studies, 1993) as well as producing a scholarly edition of Book Three and a ...
9 May 1991
Changes in the Roman Empire: Essays in the Ordinary 
by Ramsay MacMullen.
Princeton, 399 pp., $35, December 1990, 0 691 03601 2
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... of feminism, psychoanalysis and contemporary cultural politics. Literary studies in this sense cannot be seen as the enemy of history; if anything, they are part and parcel of the same subject. SimonGoldhill’s Reading Greek Tragedy, for example, published in 1986, is a book born out of the tradition of the ‘new’ Classical philology. It does not claim to be a work of history, but by showing ...

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