Introduction

Hapax Legomenon

Introduction

Sooner or later in the course of our studies, all we Classics enthusiasts come to the realization that our sources are dead. By this, I don't mean that their authors are dead, which is a much simpler thing to figure out (and I myself managed to do it after only three or fours years of Latin). Rather, I mean that the works themselves are deceased, dusty, and often irrelevant to our lives. We should not make the same mistakes as some monks of medieval Europe, frantically scribbling down texts designed centuries beforehand, treating the inaccessible creators of those works as contemporaries. Horace and Homer both wrote in worlds alien to our own, for audiences whose mindset we can only guess about. Latin and Greek are dead languages, and should be accepted as such.

Now, this would be a rather shoddy introduction if I didn't make a profound statement at this point, so hear me out, you insulted lovers of the ancients. The texts may be dead, but that does not mean we cannot draw meaning out of them. By reinterpreting the law literature of Athens, we can discover parallels in rhetorical styles. With each translated Martial poem, our ability to insult each other grows by leaps and bounds. We can't ever claim to recreate the beauty of the original works, but we can assume the ability to translate, or else most of us have wasted a few years in introductory courses. And what is translation, if not a 'bringing across' of ideas to the access of a modern audience?

But this ferrying can take many forms. This collection is a celebration of the ways in which each of us experiences and reinvents the ideas of the Classical authors. By translation and explication, parody and montage, the dead can express themselves again with the voices of the living.

Thus, while we should never bow down before those who rest beneath our feet, neither should we forget that we are standing on the shoulders of giants. The authors of antiquity may have lived in a very different world, but some things remain consistent throughout history, and thus many of their texts bear lessons and images in which modern readers can find use and appeal. As Classics scholars, we are the gateway through which the past becomes real, the ancient becomes relevant. True, our sources are dead, but what we do with them is a very living art.

Daniel Jamison '08