Jing Jiang / Sun Staff Photographer

Prof. Barry Strauss '74 produces his podcast about ancient history, Antiquitas, in the Language Resource Center. The podcast has received 1,600 listens in three weeks.

November 28, 2018

Cornell Classics Professor Creates Ancient History Podcast, Discusses War, Love, Democracy

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What does the Greek hero Achilles have to do with Donald Trump? In a new podcast called Antiquitas, Prof. Barry Strauss ’74, history and classics, tells the tales of ancient historical leaders and connects them with modern themes.

Each Antiquitas episode focuses on a single figure in ancient history. In 30-to-45-minute episodes, Strauss leads the listener through the stories of legends in ancient Greece and Rome, such as Helen of Troy and Pericles.

After learning about podcasts from his children and other friends, Strauss decided that he wanted to create a podcast about the topic he’s most familiar with — ancient history. Strauss enjoyed lecturing and wanted to be able to connect with a wider audience. A podcast, he thought, would offer the reach and form he desired. Over the summer, Strauss recorded the first season, consisting of eight episodes.

“I really think there’s an audience for it. I think people really like good storytelling and the fact that I’m a scholar and that I know this stuff really deeply really helps,” Strauss told The Sun.

Antiquitas might be created by a first-time podcaster, but Strauss has incorporated all the aspects of a traditional podcast. A professional musician wrote an opening theme song and Strauss hired a professional to make the podcast available on a wide network of servers, including Spotify and Overcast. The podcast has received over 1,600 listens since the first episode was released Nov. 10.

The podcast is produced in the Language Resource Center, which Strauss discovered through Michael Fontaine, the associate vice provost for undergraduate education. Fontaine visited the center and thought the new facilities were “out of this world,” and recommended that Strauss record his podcast there.

“I made an email introduction. The next thing you know he emailed me the other day and he said he already made the first four episodes,” Fontaine told The Sun.

The Language Resource Center aims to support language learning and teaching. Use of the recording studio is often centered around language faculty and students. Language teachers often create their own course audio files through the LRC, according to Director Angelika Kraemer. When Strauss reached out, the LRC agreed to help produce the podcast.

Over the past few years, the LRC has received multiple requests from Cornell organizations who wanted to make podcasts, which the LRC has not had the resources and infrastructure to grant. Sam Lupowitz, LRC’s media development manager, who edited Antiquitas, hopes that other organizations on campus will realize this desire and begin to provide recording spaces beyond the LRC.

“I think it’s a really cool future that we live in right now where if you have an idea or something you want to talk about or a conversation you want to share with people, it’s really easy to make it available to anyone, anytime,” Lupowitz told The Sun. “I think it’s natural that, especially at an institution of higher learning, that more and more people are looking for ways to take advantage of that.”

For academics, podcasts offer a way to connect with the general public. Fontaine thinks podcasts can bring information out of the “ivory tower” of academic institutions, and make history more accessible. This year, the Society for Classical Studies’ Forum Prize, which “recognizes outstanding contributions to public engagement made by non-academic works” was awarded to the creator of a podcast, rather than a book or a movie. Fontaine thinks this reflects the podcasts’ potential in communicating with non-academics.

“I think [podcasts] are going to become huge. We’re trying to think right now about how we can leverage the format for teaching the old drudge stuff, like Latin grammar,” Fontaine said.

Strauss plans to continue Antiquitas after the initial eight episodes are released. Season two will start with Strauss’s book, The Death of Caesar. Strauss hopes to also include interviews with other classicists and talk about popular music related to the content.