Do you like Greece? Do you like old things?

If you’re reading this here, chances are you mostly know me for writing about Pokémon, but you might also be aware that I’m a classicist – someone who studies the history, culture and languages of ancient Greece and Rome. And you’ve probably guessed by now that I like writing.

so, uh… I have a book? That you can buy, like, on paper and everything.

The backstory to this is, in 2017-2018 I spent a year in Greece studying archaeology at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and we visited some archaeological sites. And I foolishly decided to write a short poem about each one – something to preserve the facets of the experience that photography alone falls short of capturing. And it turns out there are a significant number of archaeological sites in Greece (who knew, right?), so in the end I wrote about 300 of them – about places, and history, and memory, and conflict, and travel, and friends, and discovery, and wonder, and all kinds of other amazing things I learned.

So if YOU like Greece, or old things, or travel, and if YOU are trapped in a bubble because the world is ending and miss being able to go to amazing far-off places, this might be the book for you! Come to Greece with me, and let me show you something new.

It’s called “Travellers in an Antique Land,” and you can buy it print-to-order from at, or as an e-book for Kindle Fire or any Apple device at

(Also if you’re one of the, like, 6 people who watches me and Jim the Editor streaming on his YouTube channel on Fridays/Saturdays, yes, this is the thing he’s been nagging me to tell everyone about for weeks)

Leo M. R. asks:

Did the concept of cousinhood exist in Ancient Greece? I JUST learned that Jason and Odysseus were cousins on their mothers’ sides (side note: their grandfather was a master thief?!), and I was wondering if this ever translated into the concept of kinship to the Greeks back then, and if it ever influenced why the two of them had notable similarities (like being known for legendary naval journeys and having flings with powerful sorceresses).

So, on the specifics of Jason and Odysseus: a lot of minor characters in Greek mythology have very different family trees depending on who you ask, and the mothers of Odysseus and Jason are very minor characters.  Our main source for Odysseus is, of course, Homer, and Homer says that Odysseus’ mother Anticleia is the daughter of the legendary thief king Autolycus.  Now, Homer was probably alive in the 8th or 7th century BC (side note: Homer isn’t real, Google “the Homeric Question” some time; it’s wild, but this is 100% not the time to litigate that $#!tstorm).  Our main source for Jason, on the other hand, is Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica, which was written in the 3rd century BC, centuries after Homer was dead in the ground (if he was real, which he wasn’t), and Apollonius says that Jason’s mother was Alcimede, the daughter of Clymene, who was herself the daughter of Minyas, the legendary king of Orchomenos – no mention of Autolycus.  In addition, though, we have the scholia to Apollonius, which are basically the margin notes made on the text by scholars in the Early Byzantine period (like, 5th to 8th centuries AD), and they are the ones who, quoting other texts now lost to us, give her name as either Polypheme or Theognete and claim she was the daughter of Autolycus.  I think the only primary text we actually have that backs this up is a 2nd century BC encyclopaedia of myth attributed to Apollodorus, but he gives yet another name for the mother, Polymede, and he probably got that from Hesiod, who gives that name in his Catalogue of Women but doesn’t explain who she is (at least not in the bits we have, because there is no complete text of the Catalogue of Women and we have to rely on quotations in other authors; are you beginning to appreciate the scope of the insanity we have to deal with here?) (side note: Catalogue of Women is an awful, awful title in the 21st century; it sounds like what a pickup artist calls his diary).

Continue reading “Leo M. R. asks:”

Anonymous asks:

hi u ok

Yes!  Uh, probably.  Still living in Athens; for a little bit I was on Delos where no one actually lives and the internet is crap, and in a few weeks I’ll be going to Corinth for a dig (or, I mean, people will be digging; I’ve been promised a chance to sit in the museum and play with the Roman window glass from previous excavation seasons, so… yay!).  Not super busy this month, so you should see some more stuff here for once!  Want to try and do Mudsdale this week, and another one the week after.  And I’ve been working on… another minor thing… Greece-related rather than Pokémon-related… that you may all be able to read in some form in the months to come (apologies for being mysterious but I don’t want to promise things before I know I can deliver them). Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

Anonymous asks:

Something that’s been on my mind for a bit that your professional word may be able to help with. Would you happen to know how ethnically diverse the Greek and Roman empires were?


next question please

…what, you want more?  Oh, fine, but for the record this is not the sort of thing people just “happen to know.”

Okay so I’m assuming by “Greek empire” (remember, kids: there was never a politically autonomous and unified state called “Greece” or “Hellas” until 1822) you mean Alexander’s empire (320s BC) and the Hellenistic successor kingdoms (323 BC – 31 BC), and by “Roman empire” you mean Rome starting from the time it becomes a major interregional power (say, following the second Punic War, which ended in 201 BC) rather than just Rome in the time of the Emperors.  You could spend like most of a book on each of these just corralling the data that might let us answer this question, but whatevs. Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

Anonymous asks:

If Aerodactyl is from prehistoric times, then how do you think there’s a Mega Stone for the species when AZ’s ultimate weapon was fired only three thousand years ago? PS: I hope your PhD is going well!

crap I never thought of it like that


I suppose it’s possible that either the Aerodactylite results from some relict population of Aerodactyl (the anime seems to like having isolated populations of “fossil” Pokémon that turn out to be not quite extinct) or that the ancient Kalosian kingdom had some magical equivalent of the modern processes used to revive individuals of extinct Pokémon species.  But I’m kinda taking shots in the dark here.

PhD is actually kind of on hold at the moment, in favour of a year’s intensive study in Greece, with a bunch of other students at a similar point in their careers.  But yes, it is amazing.

Nakedviolentedpenguin asks:

What makes a society polytheistic or monotheistic? “When” is the point when a god is “created”? Does exist register of the specific starting of a cult to a god in a culture? Tradition has to begin at some point. Game freak is attempting to create a new generarion based in Greece. And they invite you to work in the plot/background/mythology as an expert. Would you leave your actual work to go with that (in case they are incompatible)? What things would you implement in that games? Game’s names?

1. I assume you’re not just looking for a definition of the words, but why some societies worship many gods and some worship one?  No idea.  I mean, the three major monotheistic world religions today (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) all come from the same place, so we don’t exactly have a large sample size.  Also, all of them do recognise multiple divine beings that are lesser than the supreme god, some of which can be the focus of worship – Mediaeval Christians basically worshipped saints and archangels as minor gods, and don’t even get me started on this asshole, who is either a Catholic saint, the Devil, or an ancient Maya god… possibly all three.  No one is quite sure. Continue reading “Nakedviolentedpenguin asks:”

Anonymous asks:

You need to post more you exist solely to provide entertainment.

Yeah, I probably should.

At the moment I’m sort of sitting the exams that decide whether I get to write a PhD thesis and become a career academic or have to go home to New Zealand and get a real job, so… y’know, no pressure there or anything.  And the truth is, even when that’s over it’s probably not going to get better because next year they’re actually putting me 100% honest-to-goodness in charge of a university lecture class for the first time in my life (I’m teaching Roman civilisation) so who even knows how that’s going to go, and then after that I might wind up spending a year in Athens, so I should probably try to fit learning modern Greek in there somewhere…

I think for a lot of people who write or make videos or draw comics or whatever on the internet, there’s sort of a distant but aspirational goal of one day making money off it so you can actually treat it as a job, but for me… well, even if that were an easy thing to do (which it isn’t), what I do in the real world is interesting and important to me, which sort of puts a cap on this blog ever being more than a hobby.  Having said that… well, everyone needs a hobby, and I happen to like this one.  So I guess what I’m saying is I’ll do my darnedest.

Godzillakiryu91 asks:

Welcome back! How was it?

Okay so

What you have to understand is that archaeology is pain.

You get up at 5:00 am, swing a pickaxe all morning in the Greek summer heat, have intense debates about whether the soil at one end of your trench is a slightly different shade of brown than the soil at the other end, spend an hour or so each day cleaning the dirt to make sure the dirt isn’t dirty, have lunch which is Greek salad every day for a month, wash bits of broken pottery all afternoon, label every last goddamn fragment, have Greek salad again for dinner, get about five and a half hours of sleep, and then do it all over again.

Then at the end you go home and tell everyone it was amazing and you can’t wait to do it again next year, and somehow that’s true.

We’re strange people.