‘Wonder Woman’ and Greek Gods At War: The Mythology Behind the Film

The new ‘Wonder Woman’ movie provides a goldmine of opportunities to discuss the influence of Classical mythology on modern media. Diana of Themyscira is an Amazon, part of the mysterious tribe of women warriors described in Greek mythology, and the backdrop of the Amazon origin story in the film is a clash of divine proportions between the Greek gods.

It is this battle between divine forces that I would like to explore, especially the portrayal of Zeus, the king of the gods, and his son Ares, the war god. Although the film relies heavily on many elements of ancient Greek mythology, it does not align very well with the themes of those myths, and instead relies on a more Christian perspective to inform its narrative.

The following contains spoilers from ‘Wonder Woman.’


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Worshiping the Gun: The Evolution of Vulcan from Roman Mythology to ‘American Gods’

The essential conflict of STARZ’s American Gods is between the Old Gods, who are being weakened as fewer people worship them, and the New Gods of modernity and technology who are rising to dominance. To retain relevance and a source of worship in this rapidly-changing world, Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking, adapts himself to American culture by “franchising” his faith and transforming from the god of fire into the god of firearms.

The following post contains potential spoilers for “A Murder of Gods” (season 1, episode 6 of American Gods).

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Latin — Wanted, Dead or Alive? (Latina — Desiderata, Vivens Mortuave?): Elegiac Experiments in Latin Composition

Latin inscription on the tomb of the poet Vergil: Photo by Schoen at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20197230

In my experience, Latin education at the advanced level rarely emphasizes, strangely enough, how to speak or write Latin. Though often helpful at the introductory level, these skills seem to carry limited advantages in the end because Latin is a “dead” language few people communicate with today. Instead, the goal is generally to read Latin texts in order to understand them, interpret them, and learn about the society that produced them.

Doctor Who Season 10: Review of “The Pilot” and “Smile” – Promising Start Marred by Weak Writing

Season 10 of Doctor Who was off to a relatively promising start in its premiere episode “The Pilot,” which utilized a fresh back-to-basics approach in introducing the Doctor’s new companion, Bill Potts, and in (re-)defining the Doctor’s character and identity. Unfortunately, the main plot of the episode was marred by weak characterization that reduced the impact of its resolution. The unimpressive follow-up episode “Smile” did contain some interesting themes, but they went nowhere, due to a simplistic, unsatisfactory resolution that did not engage very well with any of them.

The following contains spoilers for episodes 1 and 2 of Doctor Who season 10.

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Adele as a Modern Roman Elegist: Reinventing the Exclusus Amator

Adele, the Grammy-award winning singer behind the album 25, is a modern musician whose work mirrors the ancient genre of Roman elegaic poetry. In the same way that Latin elegy is characterized by an emphasis on love and relationships, Adele’s songs focus on the nature of love and relationships almost exclusively. Many other modern singers explore love as well and might also be called modern elegists, but Adele earns that description because her work in its examination of love recalls the language, tropes, and style of Roman elegy to a remarkable extent.

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Article Now Available on Eidolon! – “Playing the Game of History”

I am proud to announce that my article, “Playing the Game of History: The Identity of Alexander and the Macedonians in Civilization VI,” has been published by the Classics blog Eidolon. Please be sure to check it out!

In the article, I discuss the decision of game developers Firaxis to portray Alexander as the leader of Macedon, rather than Greece, in the newest iteration of the Civilization series and how it ties into ancient and modern debates over Macedonian identity. Here’s a short preview:

The debate over Macedonian “Greekness” is complex; it stretches back to ancient arguments and continues in the form of discussions among scholars. It has the potential to inflame intense passions among modern-day Greeks and Macedonians, with real consequences in the political sphere. Therefore, the portrayal of Alexander and the Macedonians in Civilization VI as part of a non-Greek civilization becomes particularly stunning when we realize that Firaxis is stepping into such a complicated debate.

I highly recommend Eidolon. It is an excellent blog featuring unique perspectives on Classical topics and is notable for dealing with current, topical issues and intersections between the modern and ancient worlds. I appreciate how Eidolon seeks, while still being of interest to scholars, to make the ancient world more accessible for a general audience.

It does this by using a less academic and more informal style; it also removes the requirement for peer-review and extensive bibliographies, which works well for formal academic journals but makes it hard to produce timely content and respond to current events. It may take months or years for a peer-reviewed article to be published, whereas Eidolon can publish on immediately relevant issues: my article went live only a few weeks after Firaxis released Alexander as a new leader for Civilization VI.

“The Awful Grace of God”: Blue Bloods, Robert Kennedy, and Aeschylus’ Agamemnon

A recent episode of Blue Bloods, entitled “Unbearable Loss,” (episode 10 of season 7) features an unexpected reference to the Classical world, in the form of a quotation from Agamemnon, the first tragedy in the Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus. A police drama series might be an unusual place to find such a reference, but then again, Classical mythology remains so dominant in our culture that we shouldn’t be surprised to see it turn up in all corners of our entertainment.

Blue Bloods stands out among police dramas for its willingness to confront significant issues involving the police beyond just “catching the bad guys,” which is the main focus in many other shows. The morality and ethics of policing, the influence of politics and the media, racial tensions and accusations of excessive force, the importance of proper legal procedure, and even the role of religion and faith–all these areas and more have been dealt with by Blue Bloods at one point or another. If any TV series about cops had the depth to reference ancient Greek literature in a intelligent and meaningful way, it would have to be this one. (more…)