Myth & Religion in the Ancient World

This group, funded by the Department of Classical Studies and the Boston University Center for the Humanities, meets about three times per semester to discuss work in progress on, or important new developments in, any aspect of religion and myth in the ancient world. Discussion leaders are invited both from inside and outside Boston University. These discussion leaders typically send the department the work to be discussed in advance. Copies are made available two weeks before the meeting in the department or by mail to those who notify us they wish to attend.

Meetings are open to all faculty and graduate students and usually draw attendees from throughout New England.

If you wish to be put on the Study Group mailing list or if you have further questions, please contact us at or 617-353-2427.

Presenters for 2021-2022 include:

Patrick Finglass (University of Bristol)
Friday, March 18, 2022. 4:30-6:15pm
CAS B18, 685-725 Commonwealth Ave.
Topic: Euripides’ Danaë and Dictys: a new papyrus

Abstract: P.Oxy. 5283, originally from a second-century papyrus roll, contains ancient prose summaries (‘hypotheses’) of five tragedies by the classical Greek dramatist Euripides, including of two lost plays depicting the hero Perseus, Danaë and Dictys, previously known only from meagre fragments. Since its publication in 2017, however, it has been overlooked by scholarship. This paper examines the light which the papyrus sheds on Danaë and Dictys, whose narratives, centred around ultimately successful female resistance to abusive male tyrants, speak as powerfully to us today as they did to their original ancient audiences. It proceeds to investigate Euripides’ tragic trilogy of 431 BC, which ended with Dictys and began with what today is probably Euripides’ most famous play, Medea, whose brilliance now stands in sharper focus given our significantly improved understanding of the context in which it originally appeared. Building on this analysis, the paper further considers what impact this papyrus has on our picture of the tragic trilogy more generally, demonstrating the range of approaches taken by tragic poets to this inherited literary form. Finally, it ponders the purposes which such a document served in the Roman empire, and why readers in the second century AD should have wanted a summary of plays written more than half a millennium before.

Sarah Spence (University of Georgia)
Tuesday, February 8, 2022, 4:30-6:15pm
CAS 116, 685-725 Commonwealth Ave.
Topic: “Reading Against the Grain: The Cultural Poetics of Roman Sicily”

Caitlin Gillespie (Brandeis University)
Monday, November 8, 2021, 4:30-6:15pm
CAS B18, 685-725 Commonwealth Ave.
Topic: “The Mind, Once Manly, Now Effeminate: Gender and the Failure of Language in Sallust”

Kendra Eshleman (Boston College)
Monday, October 18, 2021, 4:30-6:15pm
CAS B18, 685-725 Commonwealth Ave.
Topic: “Unlettered in Paradise: Non-Readers in Early Christian Reading Culture”