The Fun Side of Classics

BY CHIARA BOLOGNESI

Chiara is a classicist from Italy, currently studying classics at Pisa University.

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When I was considering what to write my debut article about, I realized very quickly that this is a publication about Classical culture, and so everything about it could easily fit on here.
So, I decided to talk about a fun side of this subject: memes.

Let it be known that Italy is a particularly fertile territory for the diffusion of “classical” memes, given the fact that there is a whole High School devoted to the study of Classics.
So, when I was in high school - until last year- one of the funniest things that made an appearance in our day was checking the two Facebook accounts that made memes out of our study subjects: "Classicisti Disperati" (Desperate classicists) and "Il Superuovo" (The Superegg).

Both of these accounts are run by students, who just decided to share what they felt with other people, and in so doing, managed to bring together many people who work or study in this field.

I had a chat with the owners of the first page.

Q: Let’s start off with a question you have probably been asked a million times: who are you and how did you get the idea of starting a page, and then a blog about the Gymnasium (Liceo Classico in Italian - AN) and so on classical culture?
A: We are Domenico Palo e Federica setaro, two very desperate classicist (and about to graduate!). We met in Ginnasio (Translator’s Note: Ginnasio is the name for the first two years - out of five - of the Liceo Classico), we attended the same class in Giugliano, Campania, in the Naples hinterland, then Federica has had to move to the North for business reasons.
The idea for the page wasn’t perfected, but rather improvised. We spent a large part of the lessons mangling authors’ names and altering declensions of Greek and Latin substantives.
Given this inclination of ours, we were chatting over on Whatsapp on a day like any other, and we asked each other: why don’t we open a page about the Classico? A page where to express our fanciness and share our problems with other people and, therefore, show how the Classico isn’t a monster in the high school class, just because you “can’t find a job immediately after”.
So, after some random attempts and random names, we went for “Classicisti Disperati”, a name that alludes to the typical classicist’s condition: whether they are A students or not, they are destined to what Leopardi would have described as “studio matto e disperatissimo”, but still useful and not without purpose.

Q: Your profile has become a place for people to meet, for high schoolers of the present and of the past - and maybe of the future, hopefully - and also for University students who stuck to the subject: how does it feel to be such “catalysers” of this School life?
A: We are so honoured to be called with such a name. It’s a privilege we are very proud of. We would have never expected to involve so many people, both on Instagram and Facebook.

Q: On the web, on any social network, everybody feels free to talk about anything, it is only a good thing that people also speak about classical culture. Through memes and such things the user group for this topics can expand. Does the culture of the classics fit in the shape of memes? Is it because it is a part of our culture and society’s substratum? Or maybe is it because it allows the birth of “inner jokes”, accessible just to who is in the business?
A: Classics are perfect for memes: Romans and Greeks alike used satire, irony as ploys. And this allows us to involve not only classicists, but also high schoolers who attend differently oriented schools. We get many messages from Science students, and also Language students.

Q: Greek and Latin are the two major subjects in our Gymnasium and they’re also The Telemachia’s cornerstone: what importance do you think they have in the modern life? Are they central for non-classicists? And for those who choose a different major after high school?
A: Just like we wrote on our very first article (on their blog, AN), Latin and Greek are not dead languages, but they are more alive than ever. They walk beside us, they live in us, all the time, in every circumstance. The Liceo Classico is a great teacher: it teaches to understand reality, to study the reasons behind an event, not to act on impulse, to reason.
It allows us to observe the world with different eyes: the method we apply to translate from Latin or Greek, looking carefully for verbs, subjects, predicates, adverbs: couldn’t that very same method apply to the difficulties in our lives? This is why the Classico is not just a school, it’s much more.
Studying classicity, even without this high school, is useful for every kind of career path, according to us, although it may seem strange.
And those classics students who after high school turn to different majors at University, majors who apparently have nothing to do with classics, they are in possess of a universal method, that can be applied to all contexts.

Q: You’re about to graduate high school, how much will these subjects - Latin and Greek - stay in your lives? And classic culture?
A: Latin and Greek will always be part of us. We think of them as our family members, a tad old, but tied to us indissolubly.

Q: Last few questions, point-blank:
Latin or Geek?
A: No hesitations:
Federica: Greek
Domenico: Greek

Q: Favourite Greek author?
A: Federica: Euripides
Domenico: Euripides

Q: Favourite Latin author?
A. Federica: Lucanus (M. A.)
Domenico:  Apuleius

Q: Favourite Greek work?
A: Federica: Alcestis
Domenico: Antigone

Q:Favourite Latin work?
A.Federica: Satyricon
Domenico: Apuleius’ Metamorphoses

Q: Something you feel like telling to The Telemachia’s readers?
A: We hope our message is clear and…. Long live classics!!

Kayla Kane