Departmental Papers (Classical Studies)

For over two centuries Penn has offered a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs representing all aspects of the broad field of Classical Studies, from languages and literature to history, archaeology and cultural studies. The Department encourages interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to teaching and research and maintains productive ties with a variety of programs, including Religious Studies, English, Comparative Literature, Medieval Studies, Philosophy, Linguistics, Italian Studies, History of Art, and the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.



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Now showing 1 - 10 of 13
  • Publication
    Review of Oiva Kuisma, Proclus' Defense of Homer
    (1999) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    Since early studies of allegory by Buffière and Pépin, and J. Coulter's groundbreaking work on the Neoplatonists, a number of important studies have been published on Neoplatonic literary theory, including those by A. Sheppard, R. Lamberton, and J. Whitman.1 Oiva Kuisma has produced a further contribution to this growing area of study.
  • Publication
    Iamblichus on Divination: Divine Power and Human Intuition
    (2017-01-01) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    Across the ancient Graeco-Roman world, divination is among the most salient ways in which the power of the divine involves itself in the human world. Of course, one could wait for a miracle, but the gods were talking to us all the time, and it would have been an utterly common occurrence for ancient observers to sense their gods' power emanating through the signs that were understood to course through the world around us. For decades, scholars have positioned these signs primarily as levers of social power. This has made the topic the province of historians and anthropologists seeking to gain a purchase on how those in control, and sometimes those from outside, harness the authority of the divine voice for their own ends. This approach has opened up rich veins of inquiry, with conversations across disciplinary boundaries and between students of different cultures and time periods.
  • Publication
    Animals and Divination
    (2014-01-01) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    This chapter examines the role of animals in divination in ancient times. It discusses ancient observers' interpretaion of signs coming from instinctive animal behaviour and from the structure of animal body parts. It explains the three main currents of philosophical thought on divination. Plato and Aristotle believed the divinatory insights to be tied with animal instinct and belong to a fringe form of cognition that is specifically connected with humans' animal natures. On the other hand, the Stoics considered divination as an important piece of their understanding of the cosmos as a whole, and of humans as part of it.
  • Publication
    Allegory and Ascent in Neoplatonism
    (2010-01-01) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    In Late Antiquity a series of ideas emerges that adds a kind of buoyancy to allegorism. Readers' impulses toward other regions of knowledge begin to flow more consistently upward, drawn by various metaphysical currents that guide and support them. A whole manner of Platonist-inspired architectures structure the cosmos in the early centuries of the Common Era, among thinkers as diverse as the well-known Origen and the mysterious Numenius. Plato's understanding of appearances had always insisted on some higher, unfallen level of reality, in which the forms dwell, and to which we have no access through our senses. This other level seems to invite allegorical aspirations. Of course, Plato himself prominently declined the invitation, and it is no small irony that his work should have become the font of such heady visions.
  • Publication
    Plato and Divination
    (2014-01-01) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    Plato uses the idea of divinatory knowledge as a metaphorical descriptor for a variety of kinds of daytime, waking knowing. What unites these examples is that they all include discussion of a kind of knowing that cannot account for itself, and that is tentative, imagistic and non-discursive. These metaphorical uses can further be illuminated by his more detailed discussion of divinatory knowledge itself in Timeaus.
  • Publication
    Review of Luc Brisson, How Philosophers Saved Myths
    (2006-01-01) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    In this wide-ranging book, first published in German and French in 1996, Luc Brisson aims to cover two millennia of thinking on allegory in barely 160 pages. The result is a compressed overview with moments of great insight. Its strengths lie in the details Brisson is able to work into this brief treatment; its weakness lies in Brisson's failure to justify the system into which he arranges the whole.
  • Publication
    Viscera and the Divine: Dreams at the Divinatory Bridge between the Corporeal and the Incorporeal
    (2003-01-01) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    Dreams are perhaps the ancient world's most-traveled brdige between the heavens and the individual. As a form of divination, dreams play a pivotal role from Homer through the late Neoplatonist Synesius (ca. 370-413 C.E.). The dream serves as a conduit for a message from the world beyond. According to the traditional view, on which there are a hundred variations, the source is an authority figure or a god who either appears in person at the headd of the sleeper or generates a phantom drama with a hidden message. In the medical corpus, dreams also produce ties between the individual and the larger cosmos. In incubation rites that were widely practiced in Greek and Roman times, the dream served as a vehicle for the god Asclepius to make his visitation to the patient. In the Hippocratic corpus also, as I discuss shortly, dreams remain a linking agent between the individual and the larger cosmos. When these traditions of divination, incubation, and medicine are placed alongside one another, a somewhat counterintuitive fact emerges. While is is perhaps no surprise that dreams reach outward toward the furthest reaches of the stars and the gods—as is customary with divinatory systems—it is somewhat of a surprise to see that ancient dreams also consistently reach inward, inside the human body, toward the extreme reaches of the internal organs. In fact, many testimonia on dreams from the ancient world display a certain fixation on internal organs. One cannot but recall the sad tales from the Roman period of Aelius Aristides (117-89), who writes page after page on absinthe-induced dreams and diseases, documenting divine intrusions into nearly all his bodily organs. In this movement, dreams do not stand outside the rather common Mediterranean tendency, exhibited in extispicies of all kinds, to see the divine in the viscera.1 But I will take a closer look at three of our earliest detailed attestations of this double movement from the self, outward toward the gods and inward toward the organs. After a brief look at the famous stela from the Asclepian temple at Epidaurus (second half of the fourth century B.C.E.), I will examine more closely the Hippocratic treatise On Regimen (likely early fourth century B.C.E.) and Plato's Timaeus (first half of the fourth century B.C.E.).
  • Publication
    Classics: Curriculum & Profession
    (2016-01-01) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    The challenges currently facing classicists are not so different from those our profession has faced for the last one hundred and fifty years, and with each challenge, a discipline sometimes imagined as outsiders to be slow to embrace the new has shown itself naturally disposed to experimentation. The discipline's agility derives from the unique degree of variegation in the modes of thinking required to thrive in it: from interpretive, to quantitative, to those relying on knowledge of culture and context. As the value of education is increasingly judged in terms of workforce development, we stand our best chance to thrive by sticking to our strengths, and anchoring our curricular goals and messages to the value of the liberal arts as a whole, as well as the intellectual dexterity that if fosters.
  • Publication
    Learning to Teach in the 21st Century
    (2007-02-20) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    No doubt all of us, with a few exceptions, face a challenge in making the material we teach relevant and compelling to a contemporary audience. I am a classicist. The following recounts my own struggle with the issue.
  • Publication
    The Invention of Mythic Truth in Antiquity
    (2009-01-01) Struck, Peter T; Struck, Peter T
    It is commonly understood that the Greek term mythos means something entirely different from the modern definitions of 'myth'. Liddell and Scott tells the most authoritative version of the story: in Homer the term is a rather generic word for speech, and by the classical period it comes to mean something like a tall tale, usually a false and absurd one. Plato in the Gorgias opposes a mythos to a logos (a rational account) and to speaking truthfully: "Listen, then, as they say, to a beautiful story, which you will consider a myth, I think, but which I consider an actual accont (logon); for the things which I am about to tell, I will tell as the truth" (Plat. Gorg. 523a). Aristotle later coins it to mean the plot of a tragedy, and there the story seems to end. Though I have of course streamlined a bit, there are no other major developments. The ancient traditions of mythography do very little to challenge this narrative, since they display mostly antiquarian interest, where the concern for any truth-value is bracketed.