A New Classics Blog is Born, an Old One Dies

Yesterday I received an email from a Classics’ enthusiast who has started blogging at The Lyre and the Lexicon asking me to add the blog to my Blogroll. I have of course done so: the blog is congenial, in so far as one can judge from its two posts so far, one of a general introductory character. 

The Lyre and the Lexicon blog is congenial because its author shares his or her thoughts without feeling the need to satisfy professional standards. An amateur Classicist may be able to publish material and thoughts which a professional might not share unless they are worked up into a paper, for fear of professional humiliation. On the other hand, The Lyre and the Lexicon is anonymous. The author wishes the blog to be ‘judged on its merits.’ My first reaction is that this is a pity. A blog should have persona, but that persona receives substance by being linked in the minds of readers’ to an identifiable person. To explain what I mean, consider the diaries of the British politician Alan Clark. They were somehow more interesting because one knew who he was, and which English constituents that arguably amusing philanderer with a picture of Hitler in his safe represented. Yet there are excellent anonymous blogs (for example the blog of Ms Hedgehog relating to tango: though I daresay some insiders know the blogger’s identity). Perhaps the blogger of The Lyre and the Lexicon has good reasons, though, for anonynimity, bearing, who knows, the burden of office, or enjoying the privilege of a public profile and prestige which might distract from the substance of the blog.

I think The Lyre and the Lexicon will find readers. My own blog (the present one!) did and I suppose does find readers. It has all but died because it has done what it was meant to do: it has enabled me to get some things off my chest. There was a strand of elitism in it, I suppose: having expended an inordinate amount of time acquiring skills in Classical languages, I may have permitted myself a touch of irritation that those selected for university posts in Classical languages sometimes have skills which lie elsewhere, or at any rate only to a modest degree in the technical aspects of the specialisms they profess. Most of my prejudices however, are positive. Classics is ‘in’; an oral element in language training is valuable; Classicists should and increasingly do feel comfortable about sharing their personal reactions to their subjection on the Internet.

And so, like Chandler who, in the preface to is second edition waves a last farewell to his much larger work (about which I have blogged), I feel I am waving a farewell to this blog, but not necessarily to Classics blogging. My plan was that classicsblog.net would be for this kind of highly personal reflection (personal to me, not to its subjects!). I acquired (at some expense) the classicsblog.com domain for a more general Classics blog, perhaps with a more didcatic element, and at any rate a less quirky one. Maybe I will make that website in Drupal, rather than WordPress, and do lots of Web-clever things in it. But will I or anyone find the time or inclination to write it? I have no idea.

In the meanwhile, head over and look at The Lyre and the Lexicon. Thanks for reading.

Magic Mountain and crossing the Alps

Sorry for the long silence. I have been away. Crossing the Alps. I went up to Schatzalp, the hotel at Davos where Thomas Mann is supposed to have set The Magic Mountain, or Zauberberg. It does bring the book to life, if anything. I was tempted to stay there, but the currently strong Franc made me think twice, and stay in a tent instead. This was probably more authentica an experience, since the Liegekur, or lying down treatment, involved breathing a lot of cold damp Alpine air, and even at this time of year, it was not warm in the tent!

Have now reached Luguria, and wondering which route Hannibal took. I did have tboughts of descending on Rome, but it is a bit far…

More when I am back.

Where have I been? Drupal Websites, self promotion, & Greek Verbs….

The blog has been quiet for a few days. I have been busy assembling a website advertising web development services. Along with a friend who is a Java developer, we are calling our business Digit Professionals. We are focusing on offering Drupal websites. WordPress (which is used for this blog) is ridiculously easy to set up and maintain, but a bit limited unless one uses loads of plugins and customisation. Besides I still have the impression that a WordPress site always looks like a WordPress site, and it is difficult to put one’s finger on why that should be so.

Self promotion is essential. I often think the Classics as a whole would benefit if more Classicists had a good home page where they could interact with the wider public, as well as with professional colleagues. But of course it all takes time.

What else have I been up to? Well, I have been revising Greek verbs. It is nice that the paradigm of luō starts on page 100 of Goodwin: easy to remember. But I started by reading the various tense systems which he sets out, and which I never recall anyone teaching.

The fact I need to revise Greek verbs probably means I am not reading enough Greek! But how many Classicists will admit to not needing to revise Greek verbs? My guess as that those who never need to are in the minority.

Classics Students Blogging


Few academics blog. Even fewer students. Why?

One reason academics do not blog is fear. Fear of offending university authorities. Fear too of getting something wrong. If you make a casual comment face-to-face, and make a silly mistake, it vanishes into the ether. If you make a silly mistake on the Web, it may blemish your reputation for ever. Perhaps this is why Socrates and Aristotle preferred to teach orally.

However, the current generation of students grew up feeling it is OK to hold conversations on the net, so one would expect a few students to blog about their subject. Since starting this blog I received emails from one PhD student in Scotland, whose blog covers ancient world, ancient philosophy and early Christianity. Erlend MacGillivray’s blog is called Didaskelion.

Yesterday I had an email from Victoria Boorman drawing my attention to her blog Diary of an Ancient Geek. I am guessing an undergraduate student. She does not say which college. Recommended for an enthusiastic and fun conversation about studying Classics. Her opening posts invites the reader, ‘Take a look, feel free to send me your thoughts, ideas and suggestions and “aut disce aut discede” (Either learn or leave).’ None of the fear of error and loss reputation, then, which is one of the factors deterring some professional classicists from blogging!

Both those blogs are in my blogroll, on the left hand column of my homepage. I look forward to hearing of other chatty blogs. To be kept informed, rather than just to engage in sharing ideas and experiences, refer to Rogue Classicist, and Ancient World Online, both in my blogroll.

Why another Classics Blog?

There are not that many Classics blogs, though there are some good ones. I will return to that theme. But the possible gap in the market is not the point. There are a few things I want to say about Classics, and a blog seemed the best way to do it.

So I registered the classicsblog.net URL, and put up this WordPress site. (WordPress? I am a Drupalista, really, but using Drupal for a blog is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. So far, WordPress is very easy to use. Too easy… Drupal is like the Classical languages: great when you get the hang of it, there is always more to learn, and it decently excludes anyone who does not choose to expend a lot of time and energy!)

By the way, I am happy to host anyone else’s Classics-related blog here, on the basis that critical mass makes it easier to get attention on the Net. If you are not a spammer, get in touch. Spammers, no doubt, will come as παρασίτοι, though the gates have been locked.

Not sure how long my own blog will continue. That depends on whether, once I have said what I want to say, I find I want to say something else!

In due course I will probably put up a page saying who I am, for the curious. For now I should work out how to create a contact form on this WordPress site, have a cup of tea (or maybe a Caiparinho; my latest drink of choice), and go to bed!

Gratias tibi habeo, cum has meas nugas adhuc legeres.

BTW, please do correct my errors, in classical languages or otherwise. I take polite correction as a favour!