The Story of Khonsuemheb: An Egyptian Ghost Story

November 30th, 2020

Khonsuemheb, High Priest of Amun, has an unexpected encounter at an ancient tomb with a spirit who needs his help... This story is based on an ancient Egyptian ghost story found on ostraka and translated into English by W. K. Simpson. It's followed by a whistlestop tour through some of the highlights of ancient Egyptian afterlife belief and funerary practice.

The Story of the Haunted House from Pliny, with Tony Keen

October 20th, 2020

A classic haunted house story for Halloween - a philosopher rents an old house with suspiciously cheap rent and the sound of clanking chains in the night... This story is taken from Pliny the Younger, Letters, 7.27.5-11. After the story, Dr Tony Keen of the University of Notre Dame in London joins me for a chat about Pliny, urban legends, the fantastic in the ancient world, and about working for the Roman Emperor.

The Story of Creusa from Virgil, with Ed Harrisson and Olivia Knops

September 25th, 2020

A desperate family become separated while fleeing a war zone in this famous story from Virgil's epic poem The Aeneid, 2.624-795. I'm delighted to be joined on this episode by Dr Olivia Knops, from the University of Birmingham, and Ed Harrisson, who has composed all the music for the podcast. We have a good old natter about ancient and modern music, different musical moods, what we know about ancient music and how this can be transformed for modern listeners. The story features a new arrangement of the ancient Greek Seikilos Epitaph, the earliest known musical composition including musical notation.

Content warning: war, fire, urban destruction, references to sexual violence.

Niceros’ Story from Petronius, with Liz Gloyn

August 26th, 2020

A group of freedmen at a party demand a story, and get an exciting tale set on the night of a full moon... I'm delighted to be joined on this episode by Dr Liz Gloyn, from Royal Holloway University, to talk about ancient and modern werewolves, folklore, class and ghosts. This month's story comes from Petronius, Satyricon, 61-62.

The Story of Machetes and Philinnion, from Phlegon of Tralles

July 29th, 2020

In this story, a young man falls hard for the daughter of his host, but she is not what she seems... Tragic and romantic, this story comes from Phlegon of Tralles' collection of folklore (On Marvels, 1) and is followed by a discussion of women's lives in the Greek and Roman worlds, and the surprising similarities between this story and the urban legend of the Vanishing Hitchhiker.


Content warning: suicide

The Story of Curtius Rufus, from Pliny and Tacitus

June 30th, 2020

In this story, young Curtius Rufus is about to give up on a political career as he's surrounded by rumours and prejudice, when an African spirit appears to him with a positive message... This story is told by both Pliny the Younger (Letters, 7.27) and Tacitus (Annals, 11.20-21) though Pliny is rather kinder to both the spirit and to Rufus than Tacitus is! Followed by a discussion looking at race and ethnicity in the Roman world.

Content warning: racism, ableism, abortion

Plague Special: The Hauntings at Frotha, Part 3 of 3

May 30th, 2020

Part 3 of the 3-part Plague Special! We finally find out what becomes of both the living and the dead at Frotha, from the medieval Icelandic poem Eyrbyggja Saga, 54-55. Plus I have a chat about dead bodies and their processes of decomposition, ancient and medieval medicine and their understanding of plague and infection, medieval Icelandic Christmas, and a brief look at the fabulously-named "door-doom".

Plague Special: The Hauntings at Frotha, Part 2 of 3

May 15th, 2020

Part 2 of the 3-part Plague Special! Thorgunna has been laid to rest, but her last wishes were not quite fully carried out, and things start to go very badly wrong for the people of Frotha... This is Part 2 of a story adapted from Eyrbyggja Saga, covering sections 52-54. We start to see how the dead are spreading a deadly disease among the community, and the devastating results.

Plague Special: The Hauntings at Frotha, Part 1 of 3

April 30th, 2020

Part 1 of a 3-part Plague Special! A newcomer to a small settlement brings enticingly rich goods with her, but warns of trouble if anyone touches them without her permission... This story comes from the 13th century Icelandic saga Eyrbyggja Saga, 50-55, which tells the story of a series of hauntings at the settlement of Frotha set in the year 1000 CE. In Part 1, we meet the Hebridean newcomer Thorgunna, but things soon start to go wrong when her extreme privacy is not respected. As the story goes on through Parts 2 and 3 over the next few weeks, we'll see how the distinctly physical "ghosts", or revenants, of medieval Iceland were used to express fears about infection and deadly disease.

The Clever Slave’s Story

March 29th, 2020

Something a little lighter to cheer everyone up this month - in this story, a young man throws a wild party, not realising his father has come home from a foreign business trip early, and a clever slave comes up with a novel idea for keeping the father out of the house... We're all going through a rough time at the minute, one way or another, so rather than something scary or sad, I've gone for a bit of comic relief with this one! This story has been adapted from Plautus, Mostellaria, 446-531.

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