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Dr Mary Beard, who specializes in Classics at Cambridge, writes a delightful blog full of eclectic facts and interesting details, ranging from her study of Classics to even purchasing new vehicles. She is perceptive and interesting, and what’s more, she knows what gets people – all kinds of people – thinking about studying the Classics. She is especially adept at taking details of everyday life from the past and making them applicable for a contemporary audience.

Take this article, for example: in a course on “Roman Popular Culture” (which is just awesome in and of itself), one of her students presented her with this picture:

"A pig, friend to everybody / a young four-footed one / here I lay"

“A pig, friend to everybody /
a young four-footed one /
here I lay”

This picture is puzzling for Beard; as she says, “Ok, so my question is, what kind of thing is this. If it is a spoof, like Testamentum Porcelli and of that genre, then it is a very expensive one, all reasonably inscribed with a not-bottom-of-the-range bit of relief sculpture. But does it make any sense to be ‘real’?”

She further goes on to say that an epitaph that glorifies the animal would make more sense for a beloved horse. A pig, on the other hand, suggests a parody. (Maybe this is what people of the future will say about lolcats? “They largely seem to be making fun of the animal, but if that’s the case, why are cheezburger-eating cats so prominent?” Or so the conversation goes in my imagination).

-Elyn Achtymichuk

Here’s the blog post from Beard, in its entirety: