School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

UKZN Classics Department Hosts Visiting US Professor

Professor Victor Castellani of the University of Denver in the United States.
Professor Victor Castellani of the University of Denver in the United States.

The Classics Department within the College of Humanitiesrecently hosted Professor Victor Castellani of the Department of Languages and Literatures at the University of Denver in the United States.

Castellani, an associate professor of Latin, spent a full week engaging with staff and consulting with students, while also presenting lectures and seminars on a variety of topics.

In one of his public lectures – titled: In the Cyclops’ Cave: Odysseus and his Gods (illustrated) – Castellani looked at Odyssey Book 13 which tells of how after ten long years between victory at Troy and homecoming to Ithaca, the hero meets Athena face-to-face.

He also focused on Book 9 Odysseus, a boastful story told in first person, about how Odysseus defeated and escaped the Sea-and-Horse God’s monstrous son. ‘By looking into otherwise perplexing details of his account we can see how he triumphed not without considerable inspiration and even material support from those children of Zeus,’ said Castellani. He used various illustrations to supplement his argument.

Castellani presented seminars on Lysistrata, Athens, and Athena (illustrated) in which the drama takes place at the approach to the lofty temple, the Propylaea.  He described Athena as a public political patroness who, the men of Athens believed, endorses them and their warfare.

‘She really opposes the self-destructive battling of Greek against Greek; she is also Erganē, who practises women’s domestic “works” that include several actions on stage and in imagery of the play as she emboldens Panhellenic wives to join in Lysistrata’s campaign of Reconciliation.’

In his last seminar for the week, he touched on Death versus Doom in the Aeneid saying: ‘Whatever his private belief, in designing the Aeneid, Virgil adopted a stoic stance.  Simultaneously optimistic and realistic, his poem argues that ultimately and at high personal cost (tantae molis, etc.) Roman imperium sine fine advanced to just rule, moral order, and pax-peace.  We may regret, but not deplore, fated deaths for stoics recognise that certain deaths