The Importance of Siege Weapons in the Medieval Era: The Trebuchet

Siege Warfare was a medieval military operation involving the surrounding and blockading of a town, castle or fortress by an army in the attempt to capture it.1 Siege weapons first appeared around 20,000 B.C.E in the form of bows and slings.2 These ranged weapons necessitated the building of fortifications, or walled defenses, around population centers since strictly melee warfare would now become much more dangerous for the foot soldiers. However, these fortifications could not be constructed until a radically new technology was invented: agriculture. A debate around this has formed among scholars with one side arguing that the need for fortifications caused the invention of agriculture and the other side believing that agriculture was invented and then people settled into sedentary communities. Personally I believe in the latter argument due to the fact that the first fortifications we know of didn’t pop up until around 7,000 B.C.E in Jericho. This 13,000 year gap where people obviously still needed fortifications but still remained nomadic leads me to believe that agriculture had to be invented before people settled.

After these fortifications were commonplace one of the first siege strategies was escalade. This involved a group of people attempting to scale the walls of the fortifications while archers behind them laid down covering fire. This strategy was ineffective over about 10 meters which is why ancient cities’ walls were so massive, some over 20 meters tall.

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By 3,000 B.C.E bettering rams were common place as seen in this picture of a primitive battering ram with the people inside covered from defending fire.

Finally, by 1,800 B.C.E siege warfare was commonplace and advanced, with the use of siege towers and ramps, more advanced battering rams, and sapping, which is a strategy where the attackers attempt to drill through the defenders walls.

Now to give a brief overview of medieval siege weapons.

Most of these weapons were largely the same, just advanced. Some examples of this include better battering rams, siege towers, and escalade machines.

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However, a new invention that showed up in medieval times was the ballista. This was essentially a very large crossbow and generally was used for defense as opposed to offense due to its ineffectiveness against walls but its decimating power against people.3

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Finally another major new invention was the trebuchet. The trebuchet first was seen in China between the 3rd and 5th centuries and made its way Europe via the Arabs in the 9th century.4 This version was a kind of trebuchet called the traction trebuchet and worked instead of with a large amount of man power pulling down on ropes to propel large projectiles towards the defending city. These trebuchets usually took a team of 40-250 men but could have as many as 1200.

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Due to its inherent inaccuracy with the variability of human strength the traction trebuchet was eventually replaced with the counterweight trebuchet in the 12th century. This improvement focused on adding a large counterweight to the end of the beam and uses gravity as the main pulling force to hurl large projectiles towards and over walls. This design gave the trebuchet a large increase in accuracy due to the pulling force being constant since both the counterweight and gravity are fixed.

During my research I found a scholarly debate about the actual uses of trebuchets in medieval sieges. Kelly DeVries, professor of history at Loyola University Maryland believes that “[trebuchets were] able to hurl a projectile up to 300 meters but the steep arc of [their] flight limited effectiveness against fortifications. This has led to the idea that trebuchets were used mainly to launch items over the walls, including diseased animal carcasses or the heads of captured men.”5 Another argument against the use of trebuchets on walls comes from the fact that if the stones broke on impact they would do very little damage so stones often had to be quarried hundreds of miles away and then taken to the battlefield, a very energy intensive task.6

The other side of the argument said that of course trebuchets were used to break down walls, which was one of their main purposes.

Donald Hill combines these two beliefs into one where he believes that “light trebuchets were used to throw missiles into the city, whereas the heavy trebuchets were used for attacking the walls,” a thought shared by Scott Farrell.7

After concluding my research I tend to lean towards Hill and Farrell’s belief that the attacking battlefield consisted of both heavy and light trebuchets where the light trebuchets were used to lob objects over the walls while the heavy trebuchets stood farther back and were used to fire at the walls themselves. I believe this because practically there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to fashion a machine that can fire 300-400 lb. rocks hundreds of yards if it was not being utilized against the main barrier between the attackers victory: the walls.

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Footnotes

  1. Linda Alchin, “Siege Warfare,” Siteseen Ltd. last modified March 2018, accessed December 10, 2018, http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-weapons/siege-warfare.htm.
  2. Paul Kern, “Fortifications and Siege Machinery,” Ancient Siege Warfare, (Indiana University Press, 1999), 9-22.
  3. C. Gravett, R. and C. Hook, Medieval Siege Warfare, ed. Martin Windrow, (London: Osprey Publishing Ltd, 1990).
  4. “[Weapons 101] Trebuchet – Traction & Counterweight – Medieval Equipment,” Military History Visualized,last modified August 26, 2016, accessed December 10, 2018, http://militaryhistoryvisualized.com/weapons-101-trebuchet-traction-counterweight-medieval-equipment/.
  5. Kelly DeVries, “Q&A: When and where was the trebuchet invented?” History Extra, last modified August 1, 2013, accessed December 10, 2018, https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/qa-when-and-where-was-the-trebuchet-invented/.
  6. [Weapons 101] Trebuchet – Traction & Counterweight – Medieval Equipment.
  7. Scott Farrell, “Arms and Men: The Trebuchet,” Historynet, last modified September 6, 2006, accessed December 10, 2018, http://www.historynet.com/weaponry-the-trebuchet.htm.

 

Eusebius’ Account of Constantine’s Gradual Conversion

By: Jacqueline Pedlow

Paradoxically, at the beginning of the fourth century Roman laws permitted the persecution of Christians, yet by the end of the same century, the Holy Roman Empire was thriving.  Bishop Eusebius’ account of Constantine’s conversion from Paganism to Christianity in 312 at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge is traditionally viewed as the catalyst for this change.  In Eusebius’ biography, Life of Constantine, when Constantine began praying for divine assistance in battle, “a cross-shaped trophy formed from light” appeared in the sky, along with the words “‘By this conquer.’”[1]  That same evening, Constantine dreamed of a conversation with God, who told him to use the sign in the sky “as protection against the attacks of the enemy.”[2]  The next morning, Constantine sought to learn about and devote his life to this Christian God.  The emperor quickly won the battle and then “somewhat later,” added the image from the sky to his solders’ armor and called it the labarum.[3]

Many scholars today wonder if Constantine truly converted during this battle in 312.  Some historians argue the battle led to Constantine’s conversion and the creation of the labarum, while others believe it only resulted in the labarum.  Few historians go further, presenting the idea that the mystical event never even occurred.  In this debate, historians have made Eusebius’ account of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge synonymous with Constantine’s conversion.  When scholars analyze Eusebius’ work, they assume Eusebius argues that Constantine converted during the battle in 312.  Perhaps, however, Eusebius’ purpose in writing this account was not to tell of Constantine’s conversion, but rather to share Constantine’s experience. Moreover, perhaps Eusebius’ account argues that Constantine’s complete conversion took more time than just one day, and therefore the typical perspective taken on Eusebius’ passage is flawed.

A title is the first tool authors have in introducing their reader to their work and their purpose.  With this in mind, Eusebius uses two headings for this event: “Constantine seeks divine aid and receives the labarum” and “The vision of Constantine.”[4]  Eusebius’ choice of titles does not imply a conversion but does reference the labarum. It would be logical to assume, then, that Eusebius saw the creation of the labarum as the more important, or perhaps the more relevant, result of the emperor’s experience than his conversion.

Toward the beginning of the account, Eusebius claims the story he tells is that which Constantine directly told him “a long while after” the occurrence, and when he“was privileged with [the emperor’s] acquaintance and company.”[5]  In other words, Eusebius is reporting the words of Constantine.  It is worth mentioning Eusebius does not use any form of “convert” through the tale.  The idea of a conversion comes from the line that states Constantine was “determined to worship no other god than the one who had appeared,”[6]clearly implying a change in religious affiliation, though the bulk of the commentary is on Constantine learning about Christ as opposed to worshipping him.  While Eusebius claims this is when Constantine decided to follow God, the length of time over which Constantine learns about God is unclear—learning about God could have been, as it often is, a gradual process.  Historian T. G. Elliott states that “Constantine never mentioned the alleged conversion” elsewhere.[7]  This fact could call Eusebius’ credibility into question, but this is an entire debate within itself.  For the purpose of this paper, let us recognize that historian H. A. Drake argues there is ample evidence that the primary flaw of Eusebius’ work is that the biography is incomplete, not inaccurate.[8]  With this understanding, it is feasible Constantine never mentioned the conversion because when Constantine shared the event with Eusebius, his purpose was not to explain his conversion, but rather, as Eusebius’ title implies, to explain the origin of the labarum.

Nonetheless, regardless of why Constantine shared this event, the fact remains that he didinclude that this was when he dedicated his life to the Christian God.  Although this seems troubling on the surface, “modern studies of conversion experiences suggest that a dramatic 180-degree turn…is the way converts typically remember the event long after it has happened.”[9]  Drake argues that “Constantine fits this model.”[10]  It is likely that the cross in the sky influenced Constantine’s religious beliefs, but that the overall conversion was gradual.

If Eusebius’ account can support that Constantine’s conversion was gradual, then Life of Constantine becomes an asset instead of a hinderance in uncovering the true story of Constantine’s walk of faith.  For example, T. G. Elliott argues against the 312 conversion because there is evidence that Constantine may have been Christian before this date.[11] Acknowledging that religion is not a black and white topic, with a gradual conversion, Constantine may have believed pieces of Christianity and/or combined these beliefs with other religions before 312.  Then the Battle of the Milvian Bridge can be looked at as one piece of Constantine’s journey in faith in which he became more connected to Christianity, but not the sole, decisive event which caused the conversion.  In short, seeing Eusebius’ story as one of a gradual rather than a sudden conversion opens doors for the ways in which Life of Constantine can be used as evidence.


[1]Eusebius, Life of Constantine, trans. Averil Cameron and Stuart G. Hall (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 81.

[2]Eusebius, Life, 81.

[3]Eusebius, Life, 82.

[4]Eusebius, Life, 79-80.

[5]Eusebius, Life, 81.

[6]Eusebius, Life, 82.

[7]T. G. Elliott, “Constantine’s Conversion: Do We Really Need It?”  Phoenix 41, no. 4 (Winter, 1987): 437, JSTOR.

[8]H. A. Drake, “What Eusebius Knew: The Genesis of the ‘Vita Constantini,’” Classical Philology 83, no. 1 (Jan., 1988): 37, JSTOR.

[9]H. A. Drake, “The Impact of Constantine on Christianity,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, ed. Noel Lenski (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 115.

[10]H. A. Drake, “The Impact,” 115.

[11]T. G. Elliott, “Constantine’s Conversion,” 424-7.

The Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs

The Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs, St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice

Affixed to the corner of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice is the Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs. The statue presents four figures with identical faces, childlike proportions, and angular garments, carved in a deep purple stone that contrasts the white and green marble of the church’s exterior. Dating to around 300 CE, this sculpture is evidence of the tetrarchy in Rome – where power was divided among four rulers.1 In the context of earlier, more famous depictions of Roman emperors, such as Augustus of Prima Porta, the Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs is highly unusual. It abandons the idealistic, naturalistic style of its predecessors and reflects the shifting goals of the empire at the time.

During the years 235-284 CE, Rome experienced a great period of instability known as the Crisis of the Third Century. Unpopular changes enacted by Septimus Severus (193-211 CE), including devaluing the currency and increasing the power of the military, lead to a battle for power between Roman generals after his death.2 The result was a rapid succession of over 20 different emperors, each ruling for only a few years before their assassination.

Organization of the tetrarchy

When Diocletian (284-305 CE) gained power in 284 CE, he quickly divided the empire into East and West and granted a second ruler, Maximian (286-305 CE), control in the West.3 Establishing joint rule was a strategy to stabilize the empire, under the realization that a single emperor could not effectively manage such a great area. In 293 CE Diocletian divided the empire further into four, appointing Galerius (293-311 CE) to rule with him in the East, and Constantius Chlorus (293-306 CE) in the West.4 Diocletian and Maximian held the title of the senior Augustus, while Galerius and Constantius were Caesars. Unlike the previous model of government, the new tetrarchy could persist through the possible assassination of one leader.

The four tetrarchs were not only politically united, they were also linked through family ties. Maximian’s daughter married Constantius in the West, and Diocletian’s daughter married Galerius in the East.5 These marriages established a forced loyalty between the rulers and an intended line of succession. When the Augusti stepped down, the Caesars would rise in their place, and their sons would assume the vacant positions.

The goal of the tetrarchy was to portray a strong, united front where no one individual was above the other, an image well-advertised by the Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs. The figures’ geometric style and similar appearances deemphasizes their individuality and instead highlights their unity. They are identical in height, dress, and therefore status.  The pairs embrace as a symbol of agreement and interconnected power; they are indivisible. The pose also conveys a level of exclusion, creating a closed circle of elites that the observer is not a part of.6 While in this embrace, the tetrarchs grasp their swords in constant preparedness for battle. Each foot is firmly planted on the ground, signifying that no force can displace them from their position of power.

The material itself is porphyry, a valuable stone only found at the Mons Porpyritis quarry in Egypt’s eastern desert.7 Porphyry’s rarity and color, imperial purple, elevates the status of the tetrarchs. The sculpture was further embellished with jewels or metal details, as indicated by the now empty notches in the tetrarchs’ hats.8 In comparison to marble, porphyry is a hard stone and difficult to carve.9 As a result, some scholars have concluded that the angular, simplistic style of the Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs is simply a limitation of the material used. Other artifacts, however, such as the sarcophagus of St. Helena, show that smooth, intricate details were still possible in porphyry, suggesting the tetrarchs’ geometric style was intentional; the style conveys the order and stability of the empire. Another theory alternately identified the figures as Constantine and his three sons.10 However, close examination of the sculpture reveals the left figure as bearded and the right figure as clean-shaven, indicating one as the senior Augustus and one as the Caesar.

The statue was originally displayed at the Philadelphion in Constantinople.11 The pairs were likely separated on two adjacent columns that lined a grand entryway. In 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, the Venetians cut the tetrarchs from their positions and brought them to St. Mark’s. The process left behind a corner of the sculpture, later discovered in Istanbul in 1965 to confirm the tetrarchs’ origin.12  

Roman sculptures not only serve a decorative purpose, they are tools of propaganda intended to impress viewers with the power of the empire. When Diocletian instituted the tetrarchy in 293 CE, the portrayal of power had to change with the government. The Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs, through its material, pose, and style, minimizes focus on the individual and emphasizes solidarity, permanence, and united power. On a broader scope, this sculpture is just one example of how portraiture can reveal the ambitions and goals of its subjects. 

  1. Kleiner, Diana E. E. Roman Sculpture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 403.
  2. Mark, Joshua J, “The Crisis of the Third Century,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, November 9, 2017, https://www.ancient.eu/Crisis_of_the_Third_Century/.
  3. Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, 399.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Chen, Anne Hunnell. “Omitted Empresses: The (Non-)Role of Imperial Women in Tetrarchic Propaganda.” Journal of Late Antiquity 11, no.1 (2018): 44-46.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Vio, Ettore, ed, St. Mark’s: The Art and Architecture of Church and State in Venice, trans. Huw Evans (New York: Riverside Book, 2003), 162.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Nancy H. Ramage and Andrew Ramage, Roman Art:Romulus to Constantine. 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2005), 320.
  10. Vio, St. Mark’s: The Art and Architecture of Church and State in Venice, 162.
  11. Nancy H. Ramage and Andrew Ramage, Roman Art: Romulus to Constantine, 322.
  12. Vio, St. Mark’s: The Art and Architecture of Church and State in Venice, 162.

Further Readings

Ağrtürk, Tuna Şare. “A New Tetrarchic Relief from Nicomedia: Embracing Emperors.” American Journal of Archaeology 122, no. 3 (July 2018): 411-26.

Town and Gown

I have always been an admirer of fantasy novels, and two years ago I was lucky enough to stumble upon a new series that’s carved a place in my heart – The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. Like most of my favorite series, it had a vaguely medieval setting – but unlike the other series I have looked at, a large part of the first book is centered around the exploits of the main character as he attends university.

This was the first time I had ever even thought of the words ‘medieval’ and ‘university’ together, much less considered whether ‘medieval universities’ actually existed. After doing some research, I found that universities as we know them first started to appear around 1200 [1], and that the politics, drama, and fistfights that occurred in Rothfuss’s text were not unfounded.

The vast majority of the tensions surrounding universities came from the fact that students and masters of these institutions were often afforded special privileges, setting them apart from commoners in a variety of different ways. In her book on the subject, titled Scholarly Privileges in the Middle Ages, Pearl Kibre gives a detailed breakdown of exactly what privileges were afforded to scholars at universities in Bologna, Paris, Padua and Oxford – and how those privileges impacted those around them [2].

This is not to say that scholars were always treated as superior to those who lived around them – in fact,one of the main reasons why scholars were granted special privileges is that at first, they lacked any kind of legal protections. Many scholars traveled in order to study at universities, meaning that they were not citizens of the cities where they studied; As Kibre puts it, “They could expect no protection from the local laws or magistrates, since… they had left behind them their legal protectors…” [3]. In fact, one of the driving forces behind the initial formation of the universities was “obtaining for the masters and their students freedoms and privileges which would protect them from the judicial and financial demands” of the authorities that attempted to control and use them [4]. Unfortunately, granting these special rights rarely solved the problems, and often served to make them worse.

For an example of these escalating tensions let us look to the University of Oxford. One of the largest instigating incidents occurred in 1209 when a scholar accidentally killed a woman [5]. In retaliation, several scholars were arrested, and some were executed by officials of Oxford, leading to a closing of the university until King John all but ordered the city to agree to the demands of the scholars, which included a number of stipulations both trivial and important. To name just a few, the citizens were required to swear that they would not take “unfair advantage of the scholars”, “sell food and other necessities at a just and reasonable price”, set up a system by which the masters of the university had some control in setting the rent of their own property, and most importantly, the city had to swear to “uphold the traditional clerical or scholarly immunity from lay justice” including the immediate surrender of any who were currently arrested [5]. As one can see, most of their demands were quite reasonable, and served only to protect the scholars from being taken advantage of. However, the problems were not solved that easily.

The scholars, despite having a say in setting the reasonable price for rents, complained to the King,who intervened with the city on their behalf yet again. This set of circumstances repeated itself over and over again – the scholars would complain to the current king, who would intervene on their behalf, granting the scholars more and more immunity from the magistrates of the city. Before long, the king granted the Chancellor of the university jurisdiction over any and all cases where one of the parties was a scholar – this included rental of houses, the sale of moveable articles in or around the city, and more [6]. As one might expect, this kind of unilateral power did not go unabused, according to the leaders of the city [7]. The Chancellor was accused of letting clerks who committed robberies, homicides, trespasses and other crimes roam free on the streets of Oxford, acting as they wished [8]. Even in cases where the perpetrators were arrested, the city claimed that they were often let go very quickly, or had very light punishments; meanwhile, a layperson who so much as laid a hand on a clerk could be all but assured a 40-day stint in the local prison.

It should be quite clear how these sorts of rulings and tensions might create the kind of tension displayed so proudly in a fantasy novel. While that is not to say that one should read The Name of the Wind and expect to study magic at the University of Oxford, it would not be entirely remiss to think of some of the events that transpire in the book as plausible,if not likely.

[1] Verger, Jaques. “The Universities and Scholasticism.” In The New Cambridge Medieval History, 256-76. Vol. 4. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

[2] Kibre, Pearl. Scholarly Privileges in the Middle Ages; the Rights, Privileges, and Immunities of Scholars and Univerities at Bolgna, Padua, Paris, and Oxford. Cambridge, MA: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1962.

[3] Kibre, Scholarly Privileges, 8.

[4] Verger, New Cambridge, 259.

[5] Kibre, Scholarly Privileges, 269.

[6] Kibre, Scholarly Privileges, 272-273

[7] Kibre, Scholarly Privileges, 279

[8] Kibre, Scholarly Privileges, 281

The Influence of Mythology on Children’s Literature: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

By: Gabriela Rodriguez
percy pic

The purpose of this final project was to explore a topic I found interesting using primary and/or secondary sources.  I knew I wanted to my project to cover an idea related to mythology because it has always been fascinating to me. As I searched through primary and secondary sources to narrow my focus, I found that many scholars were exploring the influence of the classics on children’s literature. I thought back to my own childhood and realized that many of the novels I had read were somehow guided by the classics. I realized that I wanted to investigate how mythology is received in children’s literature. I decided to explore this question through the best-selling series Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. Through analyzing the perspectives of different scholars, it is clear that incorporating mythology into children’s literature is important because it gives kids a way to connect to their past, reminds them of the cultural roots they carry with them, and it allows students to draw parallels to the present and ancient past.

Mythology has been a part of children’s literature for a long time. It’s myths and ancient fables have been a source of many texts, and Greek heroes often make their way into youth novels.[1] However, scholars have been asking more questions about the impact of mythology on children’s literature since the rise of books like Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. These questions have emerged because the ancient cultures in the novels are “presented in a way that (consciously or sub-consciously) present ideological viewpoints that the young reader is expected to absorb.”(Ibid) The question I seek to answer is what viewpoint does Riordan present to his readers in this series?

Scholar Joanna Paul in A Handbook to the Reception of Classical Mythology[2] believes that Riordan attempted to give children a way to relate to ancient times. In her article, “The Half-Blood Hero”[3], Joanna points out that Riordan has a special way of “mythological fantasizing.”[4] He brings classical myth into the modern world. Mythological stories, characters, and motifs are incorporated into a setting just like ours.[5] Riordan even modifies classic myths to be more appropriate in the modern setting. An example of this is when “Percy still has to avoid looking at [Medusa] as he attempts to kill her. But instead of using his shield as a reflecting device, as he does in various ancient accounts, it is the shiny chrome backing of his iPod that fulfills that role.”[6] Connections like these make it easier for children to think about and understand the ancient past. Educating kids like this is better than a textbook because “instead of transporting them to a distant, frequently alien, classical past, antiquity is brought to them and made a part of their world,” which ultimately “encourages a sense of familiarity and empathy”[7] in the reader. It is clear that Riordan’s technique of interweaving the classics with today’s world is an effective way of giving children an opportunity to learn about and connect to the ancient past.

Joanna also notes that Riordan makes a point of conveying that the gods are still present in Percy’s world. Percy’s mentor reveals that the gods are present in modern settings like in architecture.[8] This is Riordan’s way of explaining “classical tradition, in which statues of the gods appear in first‐century Rome, or eighteenth‐century England…The images of the gods and their symbols are there because the gods themselves are there.”[9] By doing this, Riordan is conveying to the reader that the ancient gods are always with us, as is the ancient past. With this mindset, children will always remember their roots because they see it all around them. Joanna sums up this idea very eloquently when she explains that Riordan’s technique “encourages us to think about reception in different terms, by positing and expanding upon the idea that our relationship with the past is one of persistence and continuity, rather than the lost and lacunose fragmented image that we often reach for.”[10] In other words, tying together our ancient history and present-day lives allows us to carry a bit of the past with us rather than keeping a distant relationship with it.

Sheila Murnaghan takes on another perspective on Riordan’s series in Classics for Cool Kids.[11] She brings to our attention an interesting model from the National Council of Teacher of English for teachers using the Riordan’s series in class:

 

Teachers are advised “to compare and contrast the Greek myths with the way those myths are referenced, modernized, and reinterpreted in the novel[s];” and “to examine both positive and negative elements of ‘Western Civilization’ as depicted in the novel and personified by the Greek gods”; “[to encourage] students to explore the classical heritage of Greece as it applies to modern civilization; to analyze the elements of the hero’s quest rendered in a modern-day story with a first-person narrator to whom students can easily relate; and to discuss such relevant issues as learning disabilities, the nature of family, and themes of loyalty, friendship, and faith.[12]

 

By bringing mythology to the modern student’s world, he is giving teachers an opportunity to encourage their students to find similarities and difference between their world and the ancient one. Through Riordan’s novel, a child is now able to draw connections to a time that was previously extremely foreign to them. Classical times are now easier to grasp. Riordan not only created connections to a student’s setting but to the student, as well. The main character, Percy, is someone the students can relate to. Percy dislikes school, and he’s an ordinary kid who has his struggles. Riordan believes that by creating “an anti-elitist, low-cultural view of the classics, he can somehow promote the more elitist, high cultural values with which they are also identified; that by agreeing that school is boring, he can make kids want to learn; that by denying that myths are metaphors requiring interpretation, he can get kids to benefit from the fact that they are.”[13] Riordan is brilliantly changing student’s mindset of the classics through his novel. His technique shows us that using mythology in youth literature, specifically in a modern setting, allows the author to effectively bring the children to a better understanding of the ancient world.

Ancient times are in the past, but they are still present today and we carry them with us. They are our roots that we cannot forget, and we can make sure of this by interweaving the past in our children’s literature

[1] Maurice, Lisa. 2015. The Reception of Ancient Greece and Rome in Children’s Literature: Heroes and Eagles.

[2] Zajko, Vanda, ed. A Handbook to the Reception of Classical Mythology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

[3] Paul, Joanna. “The Half-Blood Hero.” A Handbook to the Reception of Classical Mythology, 2017, 229-42. doi:10.1002/9781119072034.ch15.

[4] Paul, Joanna. “The Half-Blood Hero.”, 233

[5] Paul, Joanna. “The Half-Blood Hero.”, 233

[6] Paul, Joanna. “The Half-Blood Hero.”, 233.

[7] Paul, Joanna. “The Half-Blood Hero.”, 234

[8] Paul, Joanna. “The Half-Blood Hero.”, 235-236

[9] Paul, Joanna. “The Half-Blood Hero.”, 236

[10] Paul, Joanna. “The Half-Blood Hero.”, 236.

[11] Sheila Murnaghan. “Classics for Cool Kids: Popular and Unpopular Versions of Antiquity for Children.” Classical World104, no. 3 (2011): 339-353. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed November 29, 2018).

[12] Sheila Murnaghan. “Classics for Cool Kids”, 351

[13] Sheila Murnaghan. “Classics for Cool Kids”, 352

Suggested Readings:

A Handbook to the Reception of Classical Mythology edited by Vanda Zajko

“Classics for Cool Kids: Popular and Unpopular Versions of Antiquity for Children” by Shelia Murnaghan

The Reception of Ancient Greece and Rome in Children’s Literature: Heroes and Eagles by Lisa Maurice