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.

The Story of Melissa and Periander

February 29th, 2020

In this month's episode, the Tyrant Periander needs a favour from his dead wife, but she may not be in an obliging mood... This story has been adapted from Herodotus 5.92. It's followed by a short talk introducing Herodotus, ancient colours, and oracles of the dead. Content warning: domestic abuse.

The Story of the Friend at the Inn, from Cicero

January 25th, 2020

In this episode, two friends on a long journey argue over whether or not they should spend the night at a rather grim and unpleasant taverna... This Greco-Roman folktale was 'very well known' according to Cicero, and features some familiar tropes, including dreams, vengeance and danger on the road; the story has been adapted from Cicero, On Divination, 1.57 and Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings, 1.7.ext.10.

The Story of the Bathkeeper, from Gregory the Great

December 22nd, 2019

In this episode, a priest sent to the baths by his doctor finds more than he was expecting at a hot spring full of pagan icons. Uploaded a bit earlier than usual so it would be ready in good time for Christmas, this is a somewhat warmer and fuzzier early Christian ghost story adapted from Gregory the Great, Dialogues, 4.40 and 4.55.

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