Classical Wisdom Weekly

Skip to Content

The Tragic Love Story of Orpheus and Eurydice

by on November 26, 2021

by Ed Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the greatest love stories in all of Greek myth, and possibly one of the greatest ever told. This story has been enormously influential from the classical world through to today. The story concerns the tragic love story of Orpheus, the archetypal artist, and his wife Eurydice.
Orpheus was widely believed to be of Thracian origin, but some claim he was of Arcadian origin. He is not mentioned in the works of Hesiod or Homer. From an early date, the singer was considered the archetypal poet and musician. It was believed that Orpheus perfected the art of the lyre, and that his singing could charm the birds from the trees. According to legend he was the son of the god Apollo and the muse Calliope. Another story claims that he was the son of a Thracian king. It was also claimed that Orpheus was one of the Argonauts under Jason who travelled to Colchis. His beautiful singing drowned out the Sirens’ song, which sought to lure the adventurers to their death. Orpheus was associated with lyric poetry, which was sung accompanied by the playing of the lyre, and he was considered to be a forbearer of Homer. Eurydice was a wood nymph, a spirit of the forest and very beautiful.
The Tragic Love Story of Eurydice and Orpheus

Seven Sages of Ancient Greece

by on November 24, 2021

by Ed Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
The seven sages of Ancient Greece were seven wise men who lived in the Archaic Period (6-7th century BC). They were thinkers, rulers and statesmen. Their wisdom was revered in the ancient world, offered practical advice, and also influenced the development of the Golden Age of the Classical World.  They were pioneers of Ancient Greek philosophy and politics, which still influences us to this day. Little is known about these figures or their thought and many appear to be semi-mythical.
Mosaïc of the Seven Sages, also featuring Socrates (top) and Calliope (center)
The origin of the Seven Sages
The idea of extremely wise men possibly originated in Ancient Mesopotamia.  The list of seven sages was drawn up by ancient writers including Herodotus, the ‘Father of History’. There was disagreement among the writers as to who should be included in the list. In total, about 23 men have been included in different versions of the list of the seven sages. The list of seven sages discussed below is the canonical list.

A Brief Overview of Social and Political Structure in Early Roman society

by on November 24, 2021

by Kevin Blood
To understand the political, social, economic and military developments that happened in Rome in the middle and late republican periods, it is important to understand the manner in which early republican society functioned and was organized. The relative positions of Roman citizens in the political, religious, legislative, social, economic and military bodies of the early Roman state was ordered by the sharp distinctions between the Patrician and Plebeian classes.
Gens – clans
The primary unit of early Roman society was the family household (familia). Numbers of related households of families (familiae) constituted a clan. These clan units, gentes (clans), made up of families who were descended from a common ancestor, these clans also had certain religious rites in common.

What Makes a Book GREAT?

by on November 22, 2021

Dear Classical Wisdom Reader,

Fortunately I have a very thoughtful and intellectually inquisitive husband.

You see, I’ve been prepping for tomorrow’s conversation, and it appears I’ve got Canon on the mind…

DH (dear husband) has been my constant interlocutor on the subject of whether we need a canon, what it should look like and what goes in it. (So you can see, it’s not small talk). 

His perspective is invaluable, but he’s also a writer himself... and so certain elements of literature are much more important to him than perhaps are to the general public. 

He’ll willingly admit that he’s more than happy to immerse himself in words that are truly well-written… even if they don’t actually say much (art for art’s sake). Madame Bovary, for example. 
Flaubert’s Challenge: Write a fantastic book in which nothing happens… did he succeed?
I’m more of a plot/character driven kind of gal myself. And of course, I hold great value in a work’s historical and philosophical standing. After all, if we are to judge literature just by aesthetics, then what in the world are we going to do with Aristotle?
Which is why I thought I should ask you, dear reader, for your valued opinion on the subject… to open up the conversation even more.
Tomorrow Dr. Anika Prather (of Howard University), Alexandra Hudson (of Civic Renassiance) and myself will ask whether we need a canon and if so, what should go into it… so I think before delving into such an important discussion, we should first ask: 
What make a book GREAT? 

Herakles – What’s In A Name?

by on November 20, 2021

by Sean Kelly, Managing Editor, Classical Wisdom
He’s the greatest of the Greek heroes.
There’s probably no other Greek figure that has had more movies, TV shows, and other adaptations based on their tales. Although, in a lot of these cases, it’s not the character’s original Greek name, Herakles, that is used. Rather, we may know him better by his Latinized name of Hercules, as used by the Romans.
What’s in a name, though?

Sappho: the Tenth Muse

by on November 18, 2021

By Van Bryan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Besides being born on the island of Lesbos around 630 BCE (and this date is often disputed), surprisingly little is known about the life of this beloved poet. The only reliable source of biographical information about Sappho comes from her own poetry. Additionally, much of her writing has been lost to the ages. We do know, however, that she was considered the equal of Homer and numbered among the Nine Lyric Poets of ancient Greece. She was prolific and wrote around 10,000 lines (about 2,000 less than the Odyssey), but today only about 650 lines survive.
Painting of Sappho in Pompeii
Woman with wax tablets and stylus (so-called “Sappho”)
Still, her name has survived, and her reputation as a gifted lyrical poet with it. She wrote extensively about love and passion for all peoples, and for both men and women.
These discoveries have lead to the assumption that Sappho was a lesbian. The term “lesbian” derives from the name of her homeland Lesbos, and the term “sapphic love” is derived from the poet’s own name. We may never know for sure if Sappho loved women; the love for women described in her poetry may have been entirely fictional. But given that she is believed to have written of her life in other fragments, this seems unlikely.