I got both my BA and MA in Italy (Università degli Studi di Macerata). I started focusing on the issue of beautiful death in ancient Greece at the beginning of my masters. In that period, in fact, I chose to work on the treatment of the “beautiful death” by the seventh-century poet Tyrtaeus in his martial elegies as the topic of my “tesi di laurea”. From the beginning and consistently in the course of my research activity I was attracted in particular by the successful approach to the topic of “beautiful death” in the battlefield pursued by J.-P. Vernant. In any case, I also paid the due attention to all other possible approaches (literary/philological, sociological and historical), in a real “siege” to the topic. This complex approach, pivoted however around the anthropological/sociologial perspective led me to analyze - already in my Italian years - the deep link between the literary treatment of the beautiful death and certain aspects of ancient Greek rituality (in particular, the rites of passage between adolescence and adult age), and contemporary military techniques.
In particular, after my “tesi di laurea”, I knew that there was need for a further insight into the ideal of the beautiful death in classical Greek literature, in particular poetry. Therefore, I started reading ancient Greek tragedy and I noticed that, while Aeschylus and Sophocles stack to the Homeric viewpoint, Euripides offered a new and often controversial stance towards the ideal of beautiful death (in the battlefield and not). This aroused my interest to the point that I decided to transform my personal curiosity into a research project, especially in consideration of the biased interpretation of Euripides' stance towards Athenian ideals and politics. What is more, the relationship between Euripides' viewpoint on death, honour and shame on the one hand, and on the other practical military techniques and warfare (an ideal trait-d’union between anthropology, history of the ideas, and concrete history) was almost completely neglected in all modern scholarship.
My current research focuses on Euripides' treatment of the ideal of beautiful death both in a warlike and in a civic context. Since such death implies the wider and multifaceted pattern of a man’s role in the world and, consequently, in human society, my approach is necessarily multi-disciplinar. I examine beautiful death from multiple perspectives, in order to give a comprehensive overview of how Euripides treats this traditional theme. Undoubtedly, the philological method is substantial for two main reasons. Firstly, it shows the links between Euripides’ lexicon regarding the beautiful death and that of other significant poets, highlighting both analogies and differences. This leads to draw a comparison between Euripides’ poetics of war and that of his predecessors (Homer and the archaic lyric and elegiac poets) and his contemporaries (Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes). Secondly, it is useful to examine the specific image that the author conveys to his public by using terms which belong to the semantic areas of beautiful/praiseworthy and ugly/shameful, with implications that are both aesthetic and ethic. An anthropological and sociological approach is fundamental too, because it helps understand what ancient Athenians thought about the citizens’ role in their society, what was their conception of war, self-sacrifice and death and why they adopted a civic rituality linked to the death of a citizen-in-arms. In addition, it is essential to take into account the warlike tactics linked to the affirmation of the hoplite phalanx that have been exhaustively examined by Pritchett, Snodgrass and, more recently, van Wees. Finally, it is vital to consider gender studies. Since the analysis of the theme of beautiful death involves both male and female characters, it is necessary to have a full understanding of the numerous differences between men and women in ancient Athens, that obviously are reflected in Euripides’ tragedy, even if sometimes in an apparently controversial way. This methodological approach is fundamental in the examination of the tragedies concerning the sacrifice of a virgin for the safety of the community. Here, the ritual aspects of the human sacrifice appear to be “civilized” through the estheticizing lexicon of the masculine beautiful death and show a perspective on femininity which seems to differ from the Athenian “official” point of view, as pointed out especially by Foley. In any case, since the main aim of my research is to give a comprehensive analysis of the ideal of beautiful death in Euripidean tragedy, my methodology is necessarily be new and unique. Thus, Vernant’s anthropological approach, exclusively focused on the death of the warrior on the battlefield, is intermingled not only with the studies on tragedy and rituality carried out by Seaford and enriched by the feminine perspective on self-sacrifice and glory which has been rightfully affirmed by gender studies, but also with the studies on war and warfare, to prove how warlike tactics and ethic/aesthetic standards are linked to each other.
Award Date: 5 Apr 2017
Classics, BA (Hons)
Award Date: 26 Mar 2015
Lecturer, King's College London
27 Sep 2021 → …