Blog for the international research project "Our Mythical Childhood… The Reception of Classical Antiquity in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture in Response to Regional and Global Challenges", financed by the ERC Consolidator Grant led by Prof. Katarzyna Marciniak, Faculty of "Artes Liberales" of the University of Warsaw. Team members: Prof. Susan Deacy and Steve K. Simons, University of Roehampton; Prof. Elizabeth Hale and Dr Miriam Riverlea, University of New England; Prof. Lisa Maurice and Dr Ayelet Peer, Bar-Ilan University; Prof. Daniel A. Nkemleke, Dr Divine Che Neba and Dr Eleanor A. Dasi, University of Yaoundé I; Dr Elżbieta Olechowska, Dr Hanna Paulouskaya, Dr Sonya Nevin, Dott. Edoardo Pecchini, Marta Pszczolińska, Angelina Gerus and the Project Officers: Magdalena Andersen, Maria Makarewicz, and Olga Strycharczyk from the Faculty of "Artes Liberales" UW.
On March 22, 2023, we were most pleased to host a special guest at Our Mythical Childhood Seminar at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw: Dr habil. Karoline Thaidigsmann from theSlavic Institute at the University of Heidelberg. Karoline’s research interests comprise inter alia Gulag literature, children’s and YA literature, and Slavic contemporary authors. Her “Habilitationsschrift” was dedicated to the poetics of shifting borders, Poetik der Grenzverschiebung. Kinderliterarische Muster, Crosswriting und kulturelles Selbstverständnis in der polnischen Literatur nach 1989 (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2022).
At the OMC Seminar, she spoke about an adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary into a graphic novel by Ari Folman with illustrations by David Polonsky. It brings Anne Frank’s legacy closer to contemporary readers and opens it to new audiences.
The lecture was followed by a Q&A session, and a discussion of impressions and details of the adaptation that speak best to young audiences. The students were able to compare original fragments of the Diary with corresponding passages in the graphic novel to better grasp how the text was adapted, as well as to discuss whether they liked or not what was done and how effective and justifiable the adaptation was in rendering Anne’s personality more vivid for a contemporary readership and at the same time remaining true to the legacy of the Diary.
Our outstanding guest also shed new light on the use of ancient motifs in the graphic novel, and how they were anchored in the original contents of the Diary.
Thank you, Karoline! Looking forward to your next visit!
Bibliographical data on the graphic novel and some of its translations:
Dutch: Ari Folman and David Polonsky, Het Achterhuis graphic novel, Amsterdam: Prometheus, 2017.
English: Ari Folman and David Polonsky, Anne Frank’s Diary. The Graphic Adaptation, [London]: Penguin Books, 2017.
French: Le Journal d’Anne Frank. Roman graphique, trans. Claire Desserrey, Isabelle Rosselin, and Philippe Noble, Paris: Calmann-Levy, 2017.
German: Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank, trans. Klaus Timmermann and Ulrike Wasel, Berlin: S. Fischer, 2017.
Hebrew: אנה פרנק : היומן הגרפי [Anah Franḳ: ha-yoman ha-grafi], trans. and ed. Michal Paz-Klapp, trans. Ḳarlah Perlshṭain, Kineret: Zemorah-Bitan, 2017.
Italian: Anne Frank. Diario, trans. Laura Pignatti, Elisabetta Spediacci, Torino: Einaudi, 2017.
Spanish: El diario de Anne Frank. Adaptación gráfica, trans. Diego J. Puls and Neus Neuno Cobas, Nueva York, NY: Vintage Español (Penguin Random House LLC), 2017.
Danish: Anne Franks dagbog. Graphic diary, trans. Tove Dueholm Nielsen, [Kbh.]: Lindhardt og Ringhof, 2019.
Polish: Dziennik Anne Frank. Powieść graficzna, trans. Kamil Budziarz, Katowice: Stapis, 2019.
Russian: Дневник Анны Франк. графическая версия [Dnevnik Anny Frank: graficheskai︠a︡ versii︠a︡], trans. Мария Скаф, C. Белокриницкая, M. Новикова, Moskva: Mann, Ivanov I Ferber, 2019.
Chinese: 安妮日记 : 漫画版 [An’ni ri ji: man hua ban], trans. Yuchan Lü and Yihui Ye, Zhangsha [Changsha]: Hu nan wen yi chu ban she, 2020.
Post by Marta Pszczolińska, proof-read by Elżbieta Olechowska, placed by Olga Strycharczyk
Gabriela Kompatscher & Sonja Schreiner, (Un)gleiches Miteinander. Konzepte, Methoden und Ideen zu Mensch-Tier-Beziehungen in einem tierethisch begleiteten Lateinunterricht[(Un)equal Living Together. Concepts, Methods, and Ideas Concerning Human-Animal Relationships in Latin Classes Including Animal Ethics], Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2022, https://www.wbg-wissenverbindet.de/shop/43149/un-gleiches-miteinander.
For millennia, animals (farm animals and house pets), mythical creatures, and fantastic beasts accompany us in our lives. Love characterizes our relationship towards companion animals, but there are also other feelings, such as remoteness, shyness, respect, and fear in case of direct contact with predators and – unfortunately enough – indifference for beings classified as food. Many of us feel compassion for endangered species, but at the same time, we are reluctant and resigned, falsely believing that one individual cannot change much. Because children and young adults have a developed ability to sense the needs of fellow creatures, the integration of animals big and small has a great impact on the successful and lasting result of every lesson. (Un)equal Living Together. Concepts, Methods, and Ideas Concerning Human-Animal Relationships in Latin Classes Including Animal Ethics presents texts, translations, and vocabulary to be used today by Latin teachers who are willing to talk about democratic coexistence as well as asymmetric relationships. The collection is enlarged by vernacular literature, further materials, and working tasks, which encourage students to seek a coexistence profitable for humans and for animals.
Gabriela Kompatscher & Sonja Schreiner, mit einem Beitrag von [with a contribution by] Svenja Springer, (Artger)echtes Leben lehren. Human-Animal Studies im Literaturunterricht und in anderen Fächern [Teaching How to Live a Species-Appropriate, Fair, and Authentic Life. Human-Animal Studies in Class], Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2022, https://www.wbg-wissenverbindet.de/shop/43150/artger-echtes-leben-lehren.
New exciting, alternative teaching methods tend to improve the conditions for animals and humans on our planet. Enriching the already tested teaching material with innovative elements and encouraging young people to be sensitive to other creatures’ needs contributes to the development of empathy. Learning about new views on animals and their (inter)relationships with us, thereby leads to a surprising and eye-opening change of perspectives. Human-Animal Studies offer all this and much more – they become a life-enhancing supplement in all classes, regardless of the subject. Human-Animal Studies support and foster students in the further development of empathy, ethical judgement, high esteem, care and respect for (bio)diversity and contribute to the improvement of other (social) competences. Realistic and attractive content motivates students of all ages to actively contribute by sharing their very personal experience with animals of all kind. The volume, Teaching How to Live a Species-Appropriate, Fair, and Authentic Life. Human-Animal Studies in Class, shows how Human-Animal Studies can be integrated in all classes, thus offering a comprehensive introduction and numerous didactic suggestions for use in daily practice.
Post by Sonja Schreiner, placed by Olga Strycharczyk
Seit Jahrtausenden begleiten Haus- und „Nutz”tiere und mythenumrankte, märchen- oder fabelhafte (Tier)gestalten die Menschen. Liebe und familiäre Bindung zu companion animals stehen neben distanziertem Respekt (nicht selten in Kombination mit Angst) vor Raubtieren und leider indifferenter Haltung zu Lebewesen auf der Speisekarte. Für bedrohte Arten empfinden viele Mitleid, oft aber verbunden mit dem ungerechtfertigten Gefühl, dass man als Individuum nur wenig verändern kann. Kinder und Jugendliche haben ein entwickeltes Sensorium für Mitgeschöpfe, weswegen sich der Unterrichtsertrag durch deren Einbindung spürbar steigern lässt. (Un)gleiches Miteinander präsentiert Texte (mit Übersetzungen und Vokabeln) für den modernen Lateinunterricht, die demokratisches Miteinander und asymmetrische Beziehungen thematisieren. Erweitert ist die Sammlung durch deutsche und fremdsprachige Literatur, Vertiefungsmaterial und Arbeitsaufgaben, immer sensibilisierend für eine Koexistenz, von der neben den Menschen auch die Tiere profitieren.
Spannenden Unterricht gestalten und die Welt für Menschen und Tiere lebenswerter machen? Bewährten Lehrstoff um interessante Facetten erweitern und die Empathie von jungen Menschen fördern? Gemeinsam mit Schüler*innen neue Sichtweisen auf Tiere und ihre Beziehungen zu uns kennenlernen und so einen überraschenden Perspektivenwechsel erleben? Das Forschungsfeld der Human-Animal Studies bietet all dies und noch mehr als bereichernde Ergänzung für den Unterricht in allen Fächern. Human-Animal Studies unterstützen die Schüler*innen bei der Entwicklung von Empathie, ethischer Urteilskompetenz, Wertschätzung von Diversität und anderen sozialen Kompetenzen. Darüber hinaus motivieren die lebensnahen und attraktiven Unterrichtsinhalte die Schüler*innen, sich aktiv am Unterricht zu beteiligen, da die meisten jungen Menschen ein persönliches Interesse, nämlich ihre Beziehungen zu Tieren, einbringen können. Wie Human-Animal Studies in den Unterricht integriert werden können, zeigt der vorliegende Band mittels einer Einführung ins Thema und vielfältiger didaktischer Anregungen für die Praxis.
Post von Sonja Schreiner, eingetragen von Olga Strycharczyk
In my post, I would like to draw attention to the names given to women in Poland. Many of these names have their roots in ancient Greece or Rome. I chose some examples of Polish female names whose popularity is evidenced by data from the PESEL register (Universal Electronic System for Registration of the Population), placed annually on the dane.gov.pl website (an official source of the Polish State).
I chose 15 names for this post, but there are many more. It is worth checking where your name comes from – there is a considerable probability it also originates from Antiquity. However, if your name is of different provenance, you probably know at least one person whose name is Greek or Roman. Perhaps one of them appears on my list:
Apolonia – the name of Greek origin, translated as “belonging to Apollo” – the god of music and beauty. There are currently (as of 2022) 7 989 women of this name, and in 2021 it was given to 438 newborns.
Diana – this was the name of the Roman goddess of forests and animals. The name Diana bears 19 887 women, and 373 babies with this name were born in 2021.
Emilia – the name derives from the ancient Roman gens Aemilia. Nowadays, there is a region in Italy called Emilia-Romagna. In Poland, 156 491 women are named Emilia; in 2021, 3 570 baby Emilias were born. This name is today very popular with parents.
Eufrozyna – the name of one of three Charites in Greek mythology (Euphrosyne), goddesses of happy charms and grace. This is the least popular name of those I recall in this overview, as just 164 women bear this name in Poland, and not a single Eufrozyna was born in Poland in 2021.
Flora – the name of the Roman goddess of spring and flowers. The name Flora is currently carried by precisely 200 people in Poland; in 2021, 29 of them were newborns.
Gaja – the name of the goddess of the earth from Greek mythology (Gaia). There are 3 800 women in Poland named Gaja, whereas, in 2021, the name was given 744 times.
Helena – the name of Zeus and Leda’s daughter, etymologically linked, inter alia, with brightness or a torch. 172 742 people in Poland currently bear the name of the main heroine of the Trojan War, and in 2021 it was given 2 687 times.
Jolanta – the name associated in Greek with the violet, although this is not a definite etymology. The Polish version of the name Jolanta (once also Jolenta) resembles the mythological name of Iole, the daughter of Eurytus, kidnapped by Heracles. There are 240 095 women in Poland named Jolanta; however, it is losing its old-time popularity and, in 2021, was given to only 21 newborns.
Klaudia – one of the oldest names of Roman origin. It used to be given in the gens Claudia, one of Rome’s greatest patrician families. Today, 138 373 people bear this name in Poland, and in 2021, it was bestowed 386 times.
Laura – a name of Latin origin, referring to a laurel tree. This name is linked with Greek mythology, in which the nymph Daphne, fleeing from Apollo, is turned into a laurel tree – known in Polish also as wawrzyn (bay-tree). Laura is the name of 62 929 Polish women, and in 2021, of as many as 5 569 newborns, thus being the 6th most common name among baby girls in Poland.
Lidia – the name indicating a person from Lydia – a land in Asia Minor. In Poland, the name Lidia is borne by 83 206 women, and 559 Lidias were born in 2021.
Olimpia – the name created in honor of Mount Olympus, the home of the Greek gods, headed by Zeus. 3 363 women bear the name Olympia in Poland, and in 2021 it was given 25 times.
Patrycja – Latin name distinguishing a person who belongs to a patrician family – the noble part of society in ancient Rome. According to the PESEL database, there are 169 015 women named Patrycja in Poland, and in 2021 this name was given to 353 newborns.
Pelagia – a name of Greek origin, translated as “of the sea”. Name associated with the goddess Aphrodite, who used the nickname Pelagia. In Poland, it has been given to 4 885 people, and in 2021 was given 5 times.
Wiktoria – the name of the Roman goddess of victory and glory. The name of 200 469 women in Poland and 3 147 baby girls was born with this name in 2021.
Post by Maria Łysoń, placed by Olga Strycharczyk who also prepared its English version, proofread by Anna Olechowski
“Iole [mitologia]”, Partykuła, https://www.partykula.pl/iole-mitologia (accessed June 28, 2022), according to: Stanisław Stabryła, Słownik szkolny. Mitologia grecka i rzymska, Warszawa: WSiP, 1994.
Henryk Fros and Franciszek Sowa, Twoje imię: przewodnik onomastyczno-hagiograficzny, Kraków: Wydawnictwo WAM, 2000.
W moim poście chciałabym zwrócić uwagę na imiona, które nadaje się kobietom w Polsce. Okazuje się, że wiele z tych imion ma swoje korzenie w starożytnej Grecji bądź Rzymie. Wybrane przeze mnie imiona są noszone przez Polki, a o ich popularności świadczą dane z bazy PESEL, umieszczane rokrocznie na stronie dane.gov.pl.
Na potrzebę tego posta wybrałam 15 imion, natomiast jest ich o wiele więcej. Warto sprawdzić, skąd pochodzi Twoje imię – istnieje spore prawdopodobieństwo, że również wywodzi się z antyku. Jeśli Twoje imię jest jednak innego pochodzenia, to na pewno znasz choć jedną osobę, która nosi greckie lub rzymskie imię. Może jedno z nich znajduje się właśnie w moim zestawieniu:
Apolonia – imię pochodzące z Grecji, tłumaczone jako „należąca do Apolla” – boga muzyki i piękna. Obecnie w Polsce żyje 7 989 kobiet noszących to imię, a w 2021 roku zostało ono nadane 438 noworodkom.
Diana – to imię nosiła rzymska bogini lasów i zwierząt. Imię Diana nosi 19 887 Polek, a w 2021 roku urodziły się 373 kolejne osoby o tym imieniu.
Emilia – imię wywodzące się ze starożytnego, rzymskiego rodu Emiliuszów. Obecnie jeden z regionów Włoch nazywa się Emilia-Romagna. W Polsce imię Emilia nosi 156 491 kobiet, a w 2021 roku przybyło 3 570 małych Emilek. Imię to cieszy się obecnie dużą popularnością wśród rodziców.
Eufrozyna – imię jednej z trzech Charyt z mitologii greckiej, bogiń radosnych uroków oraz wdzięku. Jest to najmniej popularne imię, które przytaczam w tym zestawieniu, gdyż zaledwie 164 kobiety noszą w Polsce to imię, a w 2021 roku nie przyszła na świat w Polsce ani jedna Eurfozyna.
Flora – imię rzymskiej bogini wiosny i kwiatów. Imię Flora nosi w Polsce obecnie równo 200 osób, a w 2021 roku w naszym kraju przyszło ich na świat 29.
Gaja – imię bogini ziemi z greckiej mitologii. Kobiet o imieniu Gaja jest w Polsce 3 800, natomiast w 2021 roku imię to zostało nadane 744 razy.
Helena – imię córki Zeusa i Ledy, wiązane etymologicznie m.in. z jasnością lub pochodnią. Imię głównej bohaterki wojny trojańskiej nosi obecnie w Polsce 172 745 osób, a w 2021 roku zostało nadane 2 687 razy.
Jolanta – imię kojarzone z fiołkiem w języku greckim, choć nie jest to pewna etymologia. Polska wersja imienia Jolanta (dawniej również Jolenta) przypomina mitologiczne imię porwanej przez Heraklesa Iole, córki Eurytosa. Polek noszących imię Jolanta jest 240 095, natomiast imię to traci na dawnej popularności i w 2021 roku zostało nadane tylko 21 noworodkom.
Klaudia – jedno z najstarszych imion pochodzenia rzymskiego. Nadawano je w rodzie Klaudiuszów, należącym do największych patrycjuszowskich rodów Rzymu. Obecnie w naszym kraju imię to nosi 138 373 osób, a w 2021 zostało ono nadane 386 razy.
Laura – imię pochodzenia łacińskiego, odnoszące się do drzewa laurowego. Imię łączy się z mitologią grecką, w której to nimfa Dafne, uciekając przed Apollinem, zostaje przemieniona w laur – roślinę, która w Polsce znana jest też jako wawrzyn. Laura to imię noszone przez 62 929 Polek, a w 2021 roku urodziło się ich aż 5 569, zatem w tym roku imię Laura było szóstym najczęściej nadawanym imieniem wśród nowo narodzonych dziewczynek w Polsce.
Lidia – imię oznaczające osobę pochodzącą z Lidii, krainy leżącej w Azji Mniejszej. W Polsce imię Lidia nosi 83 206 obywatelek, a w 2021 roku urodziło się ich 559.
Olimpia – imię stworzone na cześć góry Olimp, siedziby bogów greckich z Zeusem na czele. Imię Olimpia noszą obecnie 3 363 Polki, a w 2021 roku zostało ono nadane 25 razy.
Patrycja – imię łacińskie, oznaczające osobę należącą do patrycjuszy, czyli wyższej warstwy społecznej starożytnego Rzymu. Według danych z bazy PESEL Polek o imieniu Patrycja jest 169 015, a w 2021 roku tym imieniem nazwano 353 noworodki.
Pelagia – imię pochodzenia greckiego, tłumaczone jako „morska”. Imię związane z boginią Afrodytą, która posługiwała się właśnie przydomkiem Pelagia. W Polsce imię to nosi 4 885 osób, a w roku 2021 zostało nadane 5 razy.
Wiktoria – imię rzymskiej bogini zwycięstwa i chwały. Imię to noszone jest przez 200 469 Polek, a w roku 2021 urodziło się 3 147 dziewczynek o tym imieniu.
Post napisany przez Marię Łysoń i zamieszczony przez Olgę Strycharczyk
The aim of my thesis was to analyse how the classical myth was narrated by Mino Milani, combining philological and pedagogical perspectives.
Mino Milani (1928–2022) was a children’s book writer born in Pavia (Italy), where he lived most of his life. He was a very prolific author and he wrote novels, comic strips, short stories, and more, set in very different eras. His production is held together by the desire and the ability to “stage the adventure”. I chose three novels, published between 1993 and 1995 by EL Edizioni (Trieste): La storia di Dedalo e Icaro (1993), La storia di Orfeo ed Euridice (1994), La storia di Ulisse e Argo (1995). All of them are set in ancient Greece, in the distant and a historical time of gods and heroes.
First of all, as an introduction to the analysis of these novels, I analysed some definitions of “myth”, starting from those in common use, with a focus on Mircea Eliade’s studies which highlight, above all, the sacred and significant value of myth, considered by certain societies as a real, active, and living event. Secondly, I analysed the difference between “myth” and “fairy tale”, starting from Vladimir Propp’s considerations on the subject: according to him, fairy tales would derive directly from myth, deprived of its sacredness. This theory has not gained full consensus among researchers. However, may the fairy tale derive from myth or not, it is now accepted that myth has lost its sacred dimension in our society. Myth is depicted as a literary heritage of stories that continue to live in all forms of art in occidental society.
In order to contextualise the aforementioned three novels by Milani, I reviewed the production of mythological topics for children in Italy during the twentieth century: Laura Orvieto – the first Italian writer of mythology for children, Gherardo Ugolini, Gianni Rodari, and Roberto Piumini.
In the second part of my thesis, I provided a textual analysis of Milani’s books, with a close comparison – when possible and appropriate – with classical sources. In addition to classical authors such as Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Valerius Flaccus, Apollonius Rhodius, Apollodorus, and Diodorus Siculus, it was sometimes necessary to refer to authors such as Dante – a crucial reference for Milani, Alessandro Manzoni, and the operas by Christoph WillibaldGluck. Milani’s writing is very rich in intertextual references and allusions. In this way, he succeeded in restoring the profound stratification of these stories. Among the many possible ones, I chose some thematic strands. Through them, I was able to explore the three stories transversally (e.g., the protagonists’ childhood, the initiation, the plots, the fairy-tales elements, the animals, the death and the kingdom of the dead). My aim was to identify the texts that were at the basis of Milani’s narrative choices in terms of vocabulary, characters, plots, imagery, and tones.
Subsequently, I used two pedagogical tools to analyse the stories. The first one is the “inactual” – a pedagogical principle theorised by Giovanni Maria Bertin in 1977 and based on Friedrich Nietzsche’s thought. Bertin claims that the pedagogical idea must be “inactual”: this means that it does not have to respond to or coincide with the prevailing tendencies of the present, but rather has to highlight the possible inconsistencies and partiality of these tendencies. This idea has to propose – within the present tendencies or against them – alternative instances. The second tool is Edgar Morin’s paradigm of complexity, which suggests an overcoming of the classical, simple logical system. In particular, it is employed and studied as an educational paradigm which is now indispensable in educational practice, based especially on metacognition – meaning the need for knowledge to reflect on itself – and on the intersection of interpretative and recontextualising methods.
By using these tools, I finally identified the classical myth narrated by Milani as an adventure tale that is both inactual and complex. In fact, myth – also beyond Milani – narrates situations where “it is not possible to dominate a contradiction or a tragedy”, and as such they are complex, detached from simplifying logic, perhaps also because they arose at a time when this logic had not been created yet. Milani transformed this mythical matter into the genre of adventure, which has important characteristics of “inactuality”. The presence of adventure as a genre in children’s bookshelves is decreasing and the heroism, the ability to make a choice, and to deal with death are often removed from children’s imaginary. However, adventure, in whatever place or time is set, can offer the readers a deep and real growth, a passage to an “elsewhere”, in which that growth is an existential one.
All these things considered, the mythological adventure told in Mino Milani’s novels – which, as it has been shown, can be defined both inactual and complex – can therefore play an important role in a pedagogical perspective, as it allows young readers to confront themselves to relevant issues and to gaze at contemporary society and beyond.
 “Anche quando scrive romanzi storici o sceneggiature di fumetti, in realtà, fondamentalmente, mette in scena l’Avventura” (Giorgia Grilli, “Scrivere d’avventura per ragazzi. L’opera di Mino Milani”, Oblò 3, 2018, 55).
 Mircea Eliade, Mito e realtà, trans. Giovanni Cantoni, Torino: Boria, 1966 (ed. pr. Paris 1963).
 Vladimir Propp, Morfologia della fiaba, ed. and trans. Gian Luigi Bravo, Torino: Einaudi, 1966 (ed. pr. Sankt-Peterburg 1928).
 Giovanni Maria Bertin, Nietzsche. L’inattuale, idea pedagogica, Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1977.
 Edgar Morin, Introduzione al pensiero complesso, trans. Monica Corbani, Milano: Sperling & Kupfer, 1993 (ed. pr. Paris 1990).
 Morin, Introduzione al pensiero complesso, 63.
 About “elsewhere”: Antonio Faeti, I tesori nelle isole non trovate, Bergamo: Junior, 2018.
Post by Marta Selleri, placed by Olga Strycharczyk
On April 26–28, 2022 L-Università ta’ Malta hosted “The Child and the Book Conference: The Role of the Child as Citizen: Constructing Childhood through Agency and Activism”, where I had the pleasure of giving a talk entitled: We Support Girls Today so They Change the World Tomorrow. Shaping Girls’ Agency in the Contemporary Polish Magazine “Kosmos dla Dziewczynek” (“Cosmos for Girls”).
It was a fantastic time! During the three days of the conference I met amazing people from all over the world who, regardless of their age or academic background, shared a passion for children’s literature and art, both past and more contemporary. However, it was not only the love of books for young readers that made this conference so special, but above all the sense of mission and the belief, expressed among others by Meg Rosoff, American author of books for children and adults, during the conference, that dealing with children’s literature is not only a privilege, but also a duty. I also cannot count how many times words like agency and activism were mentioned. The conference was outstanding, the speakers were compelling and the sessions I attended were very informative. I also enjoyed the networking as I was able to meet people who have been for years giving direction to both Polish and foreign research on children’s literature, as well as beginners who, like me, are just starting their adventure with children’s literature.
If I were to try to briefly sum up “The Child and the Book 2022 Conference”, I would say: countless inspirations, pages of scribbled notes, and reaffirming once again how important children’s literature is. And all in a unique atmosphere and a real willingness to act.
An important element creating the atmosphere of the event was Valetta itself with its wonderful Mediterranean climate, diverse cuisine, and fascinating culture. I am very happy that I was able to participate in “The Child and the Book 2022 Conference” and I am already looking forward to other academic opportunities and challenges.
Post by Gabriela Niemczynowicz-Szkopek, placed by Olga Strycharczyk
We are happy to present the results of the stage “Hope” of the Our Mythical Childhood project (ERC Consolidator Grant No 681202). The volume Our Mythical Hope: The Ancient Myths as Medicine for the Hardships of Life in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture, edited by Katarzyna Marciniak, Warsaw: University of Warsaw Press, 2021, 836 pp., is available in Open Access on the Publisher’s website.
More books gathering the research results of all the stages of the Our Mythical Childhood Programme (est. 2011):
Loeb Classical Library Foundation Grant (2012–2013):
Katarzyna Marciniak, ed., Our Mythical Childhood… The Classics and Literature for Children and Young Adults, vol. 8 in the series “Metaforms: Studies in the Reception of Classical Antiquity”, Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill, 2016, 526 pp., Open Access
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Alumni Award for Innovative Networking Initiatives (2014–2017) and ERC Consolidator Grant (2016–2022):
Katarzyna Marciniak, ed., Chasing Mythical Beasts: The Reception of Ancient Monsters in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture, vol. 8 in the series “Studien zur europäischen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur / Studies in European Children’s and Young Adult Literature”, Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2020, 623 pp., Open Access
ERC Consolidator Grant (2016–2022), in the series “Our Mythical Childhood” at the University of Warsaw Press:
Lisa Maurice, ed., Our Mythical Education: The Reception of Classical Myth Worldwide in Formal Education, 1900–2020, published 2021, 580 pp., Open Access
Katarzyna Marciniak, ed., Our Mythical History: Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture in Response to the Heritage of Ancient Greece and Rome (forthcoming)
Elizabeth Hale and Miriam Riverlea, illustrations by Steve K. Simons, Classical Mythology and Children’s Literature… An Alphabetical Odyssey (forthcoming)
Susan Deacy, illustrations by Steve K. Simons, What Would Hercules Do? Lessons for Autistic Children Using Classical Myth (forthcoming)
Sonya Nevin, ed., Teaching Ancient Greece: Lesson Plans, Animations, and Resources (forthcoming)
Katarzyna Marciniak, ed., Our Mythical Nature: The Classics and Environmental Issues in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture (forthcoming)
Within the Our Mythical Childhood project, we are preparing educational materials for children of all ages;-). The materials result from our research and they popularize Classical Antiquity. We wish to support in this way the efforts of brave teachers, educators, parents and tutors who are searching for ideas on how to spend time together with their children and by involving all generations in a creative way. We call this initiative Find the Force!, as we believe that the Classics can be one of the sources of force and inspiration.
The volume Chasing Mythical Beasts: The Reception of Ancient Monsters in Children’s and Young Adults’ Culture, edited by Katarzyna Marciniak, in the series “Studien zur europäischen Kinder- und Jugendliteratur / Studies in European Children’s and Young Adult Literature” 8, Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2020, 623 pp. is available in Open Access via publisher’s website.
“Once upon a time, in the mythical era, at nearly 3,000 m above the sea level, there lived Twelve Supreme Gods at the heart of Greece”… Alessia Borriello and Ludovica Lusvardi invite us to use our imagination and enter the mythical world by using a simple DIY game “Olympus Ready-to-Wear” they created within the Our Mythical Childhood Project and the Cluster: The Past for the Present – International Research and Educational Programme. Alessia, MA-student at the Department of Classical Philology and Italian Studies, University of Bologna, in Winter term 2019/20 accomplished her Erasmus training in the OMC Project at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw. The game originates from this experiece and, to our utmost joy, permits us to continue our mythical cooperation. Ludovica is a graduate from Fashion Design at Politecnico of Milan and continues her training at the Theatrical Tailoring at Accademia della Scala. In the short interview Alessia and Ludovica describe their academic and artistic creation.
How to use your game to learn and play?
It is a very simple type of game, which only requires: scissors, paper, paints, glue. We are talking about dressing dolls, only the dolls are the ancient gods of Greek Olympus. The drawings of characters, pets, and attributes are to be downloaded and printed out from the game’s website. A textual component is added to the visual one: so as to know which accessories belong to which gods, children need to read the myths relating to the gods, written on their IDs. In the meanwhile, we are designing a digital interactive version of the game on app: we will talk about it in due course!
What do the Greek gods need clothes and attributes for?
The Greek gods must be equipped and dressed up, in order both to complete and colour their figures, as well as to verify that the children have understood the myths concerning them: why does the aegis belong to Athena? What is the most typical Apollo’s attribute? What is the pet of Zeus, eagle or dolphin? This is a visual expedient to fix in the minds of children some main ancient Greek traditional stories, i.e. myths, making use of traditional iconography.
Why are Olympic pets so diverse? Why don’t any of the Greek gods have a dog or a cat?
The types of animals, ranging from the most common owl of Athena to the three-headed dog of Hades, Cerberus, mirror the animals found in the Greek traditional stories on the deities.
Does vestis virum facit?
The proverb fits perfectly indeed! The presence of an attribute is strongly characterizing for a deity. For example, from the presence of the hearth next to Hestia, the children deduce her connection with the household. The thunderbolt is a menacing attribute of Zeus, who is nonetheless made more familiar by the fact that he too has a pet, even if it is the majestic eagle. Aphrodite, beautiful and vain, holds a mirror. The snake characterizes the chthonic deities; the dolphin – the marine ones; etc.
Is the Olympic style fashionable today?
We have tried to update the iconography of the gods, and make them pleasant for children, while respecting their most typical features, such as the drapery of the clothes and hairstyles. We have also been careful not to create too thin figures, especially female ones, so as to respect today’s sensitivity on the subject of models of thinness for young girls.
Alessia Borriello and Ludovica Lusvardi presented the game Olympus Ready-to-Wear at the international conference Our Mythical Nature at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw, in September 2021, and also at the Roehampton University as part of the the lecture on History of Ancient Art led by Katerina Volioti.
The game is at the dissemination stage and the Authors are looking for feedback from teachers and students. We are looking forward to hearing from you, Dear Reader, if you played the Olympus Ready-to-Wear and would like to share your Olympic creations with us. We will publish the most inspiring ones on the website of the Our Mythical Childhood project. You can find the game here.
Placed by Olga Strycharczyk, also in the role of interviewer:-).
This post has been prepared by Michał Kuźmiński, a student of Cultural Studies – Mediterranean Civilization at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw, within the Our Mythical Childhood Seminar. Michał spent the Summer term 2020/21 in Rome, at his Erasmus Plus stay, and, as much as the situation permitted, he was preparing these reports on the traces of some ancient gods, goddesses, and heroes in Urbs aeterna. At present he works on his PhD thesis at the UW’s Faculty of Archaeology.
Of all the ancient heroes, Aeneas seems to be the most Roman one. Though he originated from the Greek mythology, in the Roman culture he enjoyed a special status of a superstar. His story was a central one among the founding myths of Rome, telling about its origins and glorious destiny. Thus, Aeneas became a symbol of early victories and a bright future.
He was mentioned already in homeric Hymn to Aphrodite and the Iliad. Of royal and divine origins, he could boast about a truly noble blood in his veins. The father of Aeneas, Anchises was a member of Trojan royal family as a son of the king of Dardania. Aeneas, in turn, was born as a result of love affair of Anchises and Aphrodite. Being so proud of his intimate relations with the goddess of love, Anchises did not listen to her warning and revealed the secret to some bystanders. For that he was punished by Zeus, who struck him with a thunderbolt and Anchises became lame for the rest of his life.
Aeneas is mentioned in the Iliad several times but he does not play there a crucial role. He is just one of the noble warriors fighting on the Trojan side, without any spectacular achievements, however with a substantial help from the gods. Aeneas became a central character only in Roman culture, being present almost always in the works describing the origins and history of Rome, such as Origines by Cato the Elder, Ab Urbe condita by Livy, or Antiquitates Romanae by Dionysius of Halicarnassus. But the most important in promoting Aeneas as the national hero was the epic poem written in Latin by Virgil – Aeneid. It was composed at the time of Augustus, the first Roman emperor. Through the family relations he claimed to be the descendant of Julus, Aeneas’s son, therefore being also the descendant of Venus. In his reign Augustus wanted to set peace in the state and restore the social order among the Romans based on the traditions. The poem of Virgil served several objectives: it reinforced the position of Augustus, set for Romans clear examples to aspire to and promoted their noble origins.
Aeneid describes what happened after the Trojan war. When the city fell, a few people managed to flee, among them Aeneas and his father Anchises. Then began their exile, which was not, however, senseless. As Aeneas found out on several occasions, his destiny was to reach Italy and found there a city which would conquer the whole world some day. In the course of the journey, he had to struggle with many adversities, had a passionate love affair with the queen of Carthage, Dido, but eventually he fulfilled his destiny and reached Italy. Many times Virgil calls Aeneas as “pious”, underlining his devotion to gods and respect for the traditional rituals. This very specific feature of character is also exposed on the other monument from that time, though not the literary but material one – Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace). When Augustus finally seized full power in the empire, he proclaimed the beginning of Pax Romana (Roman Peace) – the state of calm prosperity without disastrous wars which kept disturbing lives of Romans for many decades before. To celebrate the return of Augustus to Rome after settling matters in the West, Senate decreed the construction of a special monument – the Altar of Augustan Peace. It was completed in 9 BC and stood in the Field of Mars, facing Via Flaminia. The structure consisted of a proper altar surrounded by a high enclosure made of marble and decorated with the reliefs that served above all one purpose: the glorification of Augustus and his golden age. The altar did not survive untouched, its scattered fragments had been recovered from the ground throughout the centuries and reassembled in the modern period. In the time of Mussolini, the archaeologists reconstructed the altar using the available remains. The special building was constructed, exclusively for display of this monument. It was rebuilt in the beginning of the 21st century and the altar, though not in the original ancient location, can be still admired today.
The external side of the enclosure is richly decorated with reliefs: the procession of political elite members from the Augustan period, floral motifs, and mythological figures. On the right side of one of the entrances (very exposed today, since it is in front of the museum entrance) we can spot a bearded man making an offering at the small altar beside him. The figure was identified as Aeneas soon after reaching Italy. He is sacrificing to the Penates, the household gods, whose statues can be seen in the small temple on the hill in the background of the whole scene. Aeneas brought Penates with him from the falling Troy, saving them from destruction and ensuring welfare of the new settlement which he was destined to found. In this relief Aeneas is depicted as the pious pater familias (head of the family), setting a good example for his son Julus who is standing next to him. This figure expresses also the respect for tradition, patriotic care for home and focus on a proper way of worshipping gods – Aeneas does not try to spare money, he is about to sacrifice a very fat and undoubtedly expensive sow. All these features fit perfectly the ideology of Augustus so it is unsurprising that we find Aeneas on one of the most prominent monuments of emperor’s propaganda.
However, Aeneas was not a flawless hero. Among the most iconic episodes of his journey from Troy to Italy was his love affair with Dido, queen of Carthage. Their relation was full of passion, yet very short. Mercury was sent by gods to remind Aeneas of his destiny and make him leave Carthage, what the hero did stealthily. When Dido found out what happened, she was outraged and very resentful. She cursed Aeneas and his people and eventually committed suicide. This subject, although not presenting Aeneas in a completely positive manner, was quite popular in art. We can find it in the same area of Rome as the Altar of Augustan Peace – the Field of Mars. There are a lot of old palaces which hide the true masterpieces of art inside. One of such places is Palazzo Spada, a magnificent residence built in the 16th century. Almost a century later the palace was bought by cardinal Spada to whom it owes its present name. He had the residence rebuilt with help of a famous Baroque architect, Francesco Borromini, and placed his very rich collection of art inside the palace. In the 20th century Palazzo Spada was bought by Italian State and part of it was adapted as a public gallery in order to display the paintings and other objects from collection of cardinal Spada. The gallery gives a very good impression of how it looked like in the 17th century. The paintings do not hang in the order typical for modern galleries but rather that of private art spaces from the past – the works of art cover almost the whole surface of the walls, with the smaller ones hanging higher, above the large ones. In those splendid rooms some paintings attract special attention, among them Death of Dido by Guercino.
The work was commissioned by cardinal Spada for Marie de’ Medici, queen of France. However, after her banishment and loss of fortune, Bernardino Spada decided to buy the painting for himself and include it in his collection. Guercino’s work shows the climax moment of the story of Dido and Aeneas. In the foreground there is a group of elegant court members who surround queen of Carthage in the middle. Dido, wearing beautiful and sumptuous robes is depicted in the most dramatic moment as she is lying on the pile of wood with her chest pierced right through with a long sword which she gave to Aeneas as a gift. And the wooden beams which Dido is lying on are not just an ordinary pile, since it is a funeral pyre. Dido had told her sister before that she wanted to burn all the belongings of Aeneas to free herself from him. And now Anna is standing next to her sister looking at this horrifying scene with her arms spread in disbelief.
Aeneas is not present on the painting, we can only think of him looking at the ships far in the distance. The hero is clearly preparing for departure, unaware of the horror taking place in Carthage. Surely, Aeneas had to leave because of the gods’ decision, but while looking at the painting of Guercino we can’t help but think of him as a coward. Dido, in turn, is a beautiful, full of dignity woman. It is hard not to sympathize with the betrayed queen, upon whom the fortune and love (in person of a putto painted above) turned their backs.
A far more positive and heroic depiction of Aeneas we can find in the celebrated Villa Borghese, a splendid house of masterpieces of art. Among various paintings and sculptures there are a few stunning works of Gianlorenzo Bernini, genius of Baroque art. One of them is a statue of Aeneas escaping from Troy.
The muscular, young hero is accompanied by two other figures. Just behind follows him his little son, Julus. But attention is attracted mostly by an old man carried by Aeneas on his shoulder – his father, Anchises. The lame man had to be carried from the fallen city, as we know it from Virgil’s Aeneid. Anchises holds above his son’s head the figures of Penates, the divine household’s protectors. They would be transferred by Aeneas to Italy to serve the people in their new homeland. The sculpture is beautifully carved, with great care of details. The differences between figures of father and son are striking: the young, muscular body versus an old and sinewy one; determination on the face of Anchises and calm concentration on the face of Aeneas. The sculpture of Bernini is a true masterpiece, therefore it is even more impressing that he was only twenty years old when he started the work. Symbolic is also the fact that Bernini worked on this depiction of father and son with his own father, Pietro. This fragment of the story of Aeneas was definitely one of the most popular ones and it still attracts attention of artists today.
In the very heart of Rome stands Palazzo Valentini, a 16th-century building which today houses provincial and prefectural administration of Rome. In front of the building we can find a sculptural group very similar to that of Bernini – Aeneas carrying his father and accompanied by his son.
The author of the statue is Sandro Chia and as we learn from the plate in front of it, it was placed in 2005 on the “135th anniversary of the establishment of the Province of Rome”. It refers to the events connected with the Risorgimento movement that lead to foundation of the united Italian State. In 1870 Rome which had been a part of Papal States was captured by the forces of the Kingdom of Italy. Then the creation of the Province of Rome followed, the city became the capital of Italy and the whole process was completed. The choice of the subject to be used to commemorate the fight for freedom seems to be very accurate. The story of Aeneas who fled the fallen city to found a new and independent one corresponds very well with the story of Italian fight with external oppressions and willingness to create a new, united state. The sculpture of Chia gives also a good impression of human solidarity in face of serious troubles. It is far less detailed than the work of Bernini, the figures are roughly sculpted, wearing simple clothes, without Penates in the hands of Anchises. Thus, the most eminent aspect of the statue is the tender relation between the figures: their visible closeness, caring and support expressed in physical contact.
Aeneas was a very important hero of ancient Rome and has remained a significant figure for centuries, until today. He is a character full of ambiguities, tender and impulsive, pious and insidious, brave and treacherous. His story was capable of inspiring many generations of artists who used it to promote certain ideals of the state and a citizen. Perhaps, it was this internal inconsistency that made Aeneas such a popular and powerful symbol – a hero, who at the same time remained very humane, similar to the ordinary people.
Wergiliusz, Eneida, trans. Zygmunt Kubiak, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 1987.
Claridge, Amanda, Rome. An Oxford Archaeological Guide, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2010, pp. 207–213.
Leeming, David, The Oxford Companion to World Mythology, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005, pp. 5–6.
Roman, Luke and Monica Roman, Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology, Facts On File, New York 2010, pp. 13–28.