Fall 2014 Newsletter

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Letter from the Chair

(photo: Chair, Professor Ann O. Koloski-Ostrow)Chair, Professor Ann O. Koloski-Ostrow

Dear Current Students (undergraduate and graduate), Alumni/ae (undergraduate and graduate), and Friends and Supporters of the Department,

            This newsletter covers news and events since last January of 2014 through most of this fall 2014, including departmental lectures, fieldtrips, visits from alums, meet and greets for graduate students, thesis defenses, our 2014 May Brandeis graduation ceremony, summer activities for our students and faculty, and faculty news (below, Notabilia) from all five regular CLAS faculty and our fall visitor, Jacquelyn Williamson.  I have included some photos of fall events as well, such as our Eunice M. Lebowitz Cohen Fellows’ dinner.

            I myself had a very hectic, but productive and energetic, spring and fall so far.  I made a research trip to Rome last January, where I worked hard on a new book manuscript (on the Ancient Toilets of the Capital City).  During the spring semester I taught a large course on Pompeii and a brand new course on Ancient Technology, Medicine, and Art.  Some of the student projects from that course are displayed in our photo wheel.

            Last summer I completed some exciting travels and research.  I submitted the final edits for my manuscript, The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy:  Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems (to be published in spring 2015 by the University of North Carolina Press).  In addition, with my husband, Professor Steven E. Ostrow of the History Faculty of MIT, I ran a program for the Vergilian Society of America, “Greeks and Romans in Town and Country, under the Shadow of Vesuvius,” from June 30 to July 12, 2014.  When that program ended, we were able to explore some beautiful Roman archaeological remains in the vicinity of Barcelona.  I also lived at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome for the month of August for library and archival research, and I tended the beautiful secret garden there in the Villa Borghese.  

            Heidi McAllister, our loyal and kind departmental administrator, continues to work around the clock to keep up with the demands of running a department that offers courses to hundreds of undergraduates and is the home to about 25 graduate students in our Masters program in Ancient Greek and Roman Studies.  Our Masters student, Melanie Harris, assists Heidi and tirelessly updates our ever-changing website.  Melanie has made a huge difference to the “face” of the department, and has been very helpful to me with this newsletter.

            We hope that our alumni/ae have all had a very good 2014 so far.  We are, as always, very grateful to all of you who have made gifts to the department since last January.  I once again offer my warmest thanks to the many of you who have sent us checks to support our programming, library needs, student prizes, fellowships, our scholarship fund, and CLARC internships.  We are eternally grateful to all of you.

            Please write us (or better yet, come to see us) with any news you would like to share with your classmates and former teachers! 

Warm regards to you all,

Professor AOK-O


Professor Patricia A. Johnston             

                 I co-directed a symposium in Verona (actually in Gazza Veronese) on “The Age of Augustus" this past summer.  The title of my own presentation was "Juno and Augustan Myth".  During the Symposium we spent one day in Verona itself and  another in Mantua (Vergil's birth place), where we were hosted by the Vergilian Society of Mantua in their impressive quarters.  My sister and I then proceeded to Padua, Bologna, Perugia, and finally to Rome.  In our travels to Rome, we had a dramatic flat tire and I’m in an ongoing struggle with Hertz and the car insurance company to cover the cost of the tire!  There were many events in Italy this year celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the death of Augustus (14 CE).  I was also invited to give a paper on Augustus and Vergil in Budapest for another such symposium in September.

I also have some publications to list:

1. The New England University Press/Brandeis University Press has just published the Third Edition of my introductory Latin textbook, Traditio: An Introduction to the Latin Language, along with the Workbook.

2.  Acta Antiqua Hungarica is just now completing publications of our proceedings from the 2011 Symposium Cumanum on Arcadia, entitled Arcadia, the Golden Age, and the Locus Amoenus: Idyllic Poetic Landscapes of Early Rome and their Later Repercussions, Edited by Patricia A. Johnston and Sophia Papaioannou.

3.  Cambridge Scholars’ Press is just now publishing the proceedings of the Symposium Grumentum held in 2013, on Animals and the Gods.

Professor Andrew Koh

I have a lot of news, so my apologies in advance for the length of this report.

2014 Brandeis at Petras archaeological field school

            For five weeks in June and July, fourteen current and former Brandeis students accompanied me as the bulk of the archaeological volunteers at the Petras excavations (www.petras-excavations.gr) near the modern Cretan city of Siteia (ancient Eteia, home of the Eteocretans). Since 1985, the Greek Archaeological Service under the leadership of Dr. Metaxia Tsipopoulou has been excavating a Minoan palace (dating to ca. 1500 BCE) and its environs.  In January, Dr. Tsipopoulou invited me to bring one of the largest teams ever to participate in these important excavations.  Since 2004, the project has focused on the settlement’s cemetery, which has produced rich votive deposits and burials. All the students this summer developed the fundamental skills of excavating and recording.  In addition to crash courses in carefully excavating ancient human remains, students found an assortment of artifacts such as a rare Mallian prism seal, precious metals, figurines, Kamares Ware, and Cycladic stone vessels, verifying Petras’ importance throughout time and its lively interactions with locales both near and far.

ARCHEM research

            Thanks to a major grant from the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, three Ancient Greek and Roman Studies students accompanied me to Crete this summer to participate in the ARCHEM project, which combines classical studies and archaeological science to trace the production and trade of ancient organic commodities in Greece and beyond.  My latest ARCHEM publication came out this August in PLOS ONE, an innovative open access and peer-reviewed journal founded by innovators in San Francisco.  In September, a paper I co-authored on the ancient purple dye workshop at Pefka, Crete was presented at an international conference on Cyprus.  MA student Alison Crandall will present a poster with me this January 2015 at the AIA Annual Meeting (in New Orleans) that details the methodology of this research.  As a Florence Levy Kay Fellow between Classical Studies and Chemistry during the next two years, I plan to finish my monograph for University of California Press that details the exciting new insights gained over the past decade using this innovative, interdisciplinary approach.

Brandeis Vinography of Israel Project

            Thanks to my discovery of the first scientifically identified palatial wine cellar in the ancient Near East at Tel Kabri (published in PLOS ONE 2014, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106406) and the growing accessibility of grapevine DNA databases, the Vinography of Israel Project was recently inaugurated.  After the 7th century Muslim conquest, the famed vineyards of the Upper Galilee vanished (cf. p.lond.7.1948, a Ptolemaic papyrus from the Zenon Archive detailing a vineyard 15 km from Kabri with wine purportedly indistinguishable from the celebrated wines of Chios).  In the 19th century, noted Zionist Baron Edmond de Rothschild imported grape varieties from his chateaus in Bordeaux, which remain the basis of Israeli viticulture to this day.

            Unfortunately, the grapes that thrived near the Atlantic coast of Aquitaine are almost certainly dissimilar to the varieties that produced the heralded wines of old.  Using grape DNA from Kabri, the plan is to conduct GIS and landscape studies at the new Brandeis Digital Humanities Lab to isolate feral grapes near Kabri that might descend from these ancient cultivars.  A parallel study is to isolate similar grape varieties in Provence, France, knowing that the ancient Greeks brought grapes with them ultimately from the Near East when colonizing the region in the 7th century BCE.  These rediscovered grape varieties, or those cloned from the ancient DNA, could feasibly be reintroduced to Israel. Brandeis students will have the opportunity to work at the Lab with me and collaborators at the University of Haifa and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

            Some major news outlets have written their own unique pieces about the Kabri find, including the largest circulation newspapers in Germany, Korea, and Chile.





2015 Haifa-GW-Brandeis Kabri Archaeological Project

            Thanks to the continued support of the department, generous donors, and the Bronfman Philanthropies collaboration grant, we are planning for the 2015 season of the Haifa-GW-Brandeis Kabri Archaeological Project.  Over three seasons, more than thirty Brandeis students have excavated at the important Canaanite/Phoenician/Greek/Roman sites in the Kabri region of Israel.

2015 McGrath Farm (Concord, MA) archaeological field school

            As a member of the Concord Historical Commission, I continue to work with the town to inaugurate an archaeological field school at the recently purchased McGrath Farm, which until the 19th century was land owned by the family of Col. James Barrett of Revolutionary War fame.  I first identified this opportunity in the process of producing a digital archaeological sensitivity map for the town, which will proceed this fall with the help of Brandeis student interns in the new Digital Humanities Lab.  Focusing on the area now occupied by an early 20th century bunkhouse, which locals attach to German POWs and by a preceding Postbellum structure to freed slaves, students will learn basic archaeological field methods and issues pertaining to cultural heritage and conservation in an intensive and convenient fashion before heading to the Mediterranean.  The Board of Selectmen have started renovations of the bunkhouse itself to provide facilities for our field school and possibly long-term storage and study facilities for the town’s archaeological artifacts.  In August, I led a preliminary walkthrough of the site in anticipation of submitting a Community Preservation Act funding application to the town.  After preliminary survey and GIS work in the spring of 2015, the plan is to excavate three areas (bunkhouse, native campsites, and structure abutting the old Boston and Lowell rail) next fall culminating in an exhibit at the Concord Museum coinciding with Massachusetts Archaeology Month.


            I continue with my appointment as an Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) national lecturer, which includes talks this year on the campuses of UPenn, Texas Tech, and Trinity College.  Last March, I also joined the illustrious members of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah for an evening of wine tasting, and I delivered the opening lecture on ancient wines and the wine cellar at Tel Kabri, Israel.  In October, I joined Joseph Greene of the Harvard Semitic Museum for a joint Harvard Museums lecture called Sweet and Spice Libations: Wine in the Ancient Near East.  I also continue to serve on the managing committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.  This November I will commence a three-year term as the chair of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) sponsored session on Technology in Archaeology at their annual meetings.

Professor Leonard C. Muellner

                 I neglected to report this in our last newsletter, but on September 19, 2013, I had the honor and the fun of giving the annual Hannibal lecture at Carthage College in Kenosha WI, a small 4-year college (originally located in Carthage, Illinois) with a very lively humanities program.  It is now situated directly on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, a midwestern watery world like no other I've been to on earth.  Before the lecture began, the lovely people in charge of the lectureship, Profs. Seemee Ali and Michael McShane, rang the Hannibell, a tiny but sonorous brass bell on an elephant.  My talk was entitled, "How to get half-way home: the mythology and poetry of Odysseus' trip from Ogygiē to Scheriē."  The whole experience was amazing.  On March 6, 2014 I gave a talk on the history of annotation from Homer to now at a conference on annotation and its significance for online education that was sponsored by the School of Education at the University of Málaga in Spain.  While there, my wife Mimie and I spent a day visiting the Alhambra in Granada, in many ways the most beautiful building I have ever seen, but we also experienced the best ever flamenco dancing at a school for flamenco and again in an intimate private venue at the local aquarium, just for the conference participants.  This past summer, I wrote an article for a Homer Encyclopedia on Homeric Poetics to be published by Cambridge University Press, and I have done a lot of reading for promotion reviews.

Please see my photos of a ceiling in the Alhambra, the city of Málaga from the hotel roof, and sunset on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Professor Cheryl L. Walker

I taught more courses last spring than maybe ever before in my Brandeis career:

Classics 121 (enrollment 16) Money, Markets, & Society (WI)

Greek 30 (enrollment 7)

Latin 20 (enrollment 15)

Latin 298 (enrollment 1) Cicero's speeches

Classics 298 (enrollment 3) Greeks Look East (Herod, Xenophon, Josephus, et alii)

Classics 298 (enrollment 1) Classical Historiography

Classics 298 (enrollment 1) Alexander the Great

Classics 98 (enrollment 2) = Classics 100

Classics 98 (enrollment 1)  = Hist 103

Classics 99 (enrollment 1) Ben Federlin’s thesis on Medieval Bestiaries

            I also mentored two more students on their theses, although I’m not listing them, as I was the instructor of record but did not meet regularly. I was on 5 M.A. thesis committees, 3 senior thesis committees, and read one M.A. paper.  It was a marathon spring semester.

            During the summer, I recovered some, and I did fit in a review for a publisher, but otherwise it was a Beckettean(?) parody Waiting for Contractor, although he did eventually materialize and finish various home improvement projects. Followed, of course, by "let's see how long it takes before she froths at the mouth over the 'refresh' glitches and her own inadequacies with a new computer."  The homicidal pear tree continues to try to hit me with discarded fruit, and the garden is a teeming conspiracy of weeds, lurking produce, and anomalous vegetables. Other than that, business as usual...

Professor Jacquelyn Williamson

         I am an Egyptologist with research specialties in the Amarna Period and gender in the ancient Mediterranean world. This fall semester I’ve been teaching a class on the impact of gender on constructions of power in the ancient world, focusing on the conflict between Rome and Egypt under Cleopatra VII.  I also hold a research position at Harvard Semitic Museum this year.  My other specialties and interests include art, ancient technology, languages, and archaeology.

Gratias Agimus!

We are very happy to acknowledge those individuals who have made contributions (large and small) over the past year that enrich our programs and provide resources for things we would not be able to do without their generosity.  Warmest thanks to the following individuals for recent contributions: Robert and Cynthia Lepofsky, Eunice M. Lebowitz Cohen, Daniel Franklin, Gloria Fong, Sanford Ma, Dianne Ma, and Fred Siegel ’71.For additional information on how students may be supported by your gifts, please contact the chair, Professor Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow (aoko@brandeis.edu) or 781-736-2183

If you would like to make a donation to Classical Studies (which you can do in a targeted and specific way to our Gift fund), please make your check out to The Department of Classical Studies, Brandeis University and send it to:

c/o the Chair Professor Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow or to

Heidi McAllister, Academic Administrator

Department of Classical Studies

Mandel Center for the Humanities,M.S. 092

Brandeis University

415 South Street

Waltham, Massachusetts 02453-9110

Call for Submissions

Nuntius was designed to bring you our news, but we also hope that it serves as a vehicle through which to receive and pass on your input, news, and ideas.  Our intention is to reach out to the entire Brandeis Classical Studies community:  faculty, students, alumni/ae, donors, and our friends, who like us, are lovers of Classical Studies. To that end, please let us know what you think about the publication and about the kinds of news and photos included in this issue and others.We would be most receptive to your thoughts, cartoons, brief essays, discussion topics, and anecdotes from your Brandeis days in Classical Studies.

We’d also love to have photos from way-back-when the department was young.  Please consider us as a place to publish your memories of Classical Studies whether in artwork, photography, poetry, translations, sketches, or watercolors.  Please contact Heidi McAllister (hmcallis@brandeis.edu) or the department chair, Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow (aoko@brandeis.edu) with your material or with any questions. Thank you!

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