The Story of Cynthia, from Propertius

January 26th, 2021

Propertius' girlfriend Cynthia has died suddenly, but he hasn't seen the last of her... This story has been adapted from Propertius, Elegies, 4.7 and 4.8, and is followed by a chat about Latin love elegy, Roman funerary customs, and the geography of the underworld, including the famous Gates of Sleep.

The Story of Gui de Corvo: A Christmas Ghost Story

December 23rd, 2020

Christmas 1323 is a sad season for the widow of Gui de Corvo, but it's made even more difficult when it seems her late husband hasn't quite left yet... This story is adapted from medieval texts attributed to Jean Gobi, translated into French by Marie-Anne Polo de Beaulieu. It's followed by a few words on purgatory in medieval ghost stories, and on medieval Christmas traditions.

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.

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