32 episodes

Natalie Haynes takes a fresh look at the ancient world, creating stand-up routines about figures from ancient Greece and Rome.

Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics BBC Radio 4

    • Comedy
    • 5.0 • 116 Ratings

Natalie Haynes takes a fresh look at the ancient world, creating stand-up routines about figures from ancient Greece and Rome.

    Homer: The Odyssey

    Homer: The Odyssey

    Natalie retells Homer's epic story in an extraordinary tour-de-force performance recorded in the BBC's Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House. The ancient original would most probably have been performed from memory, and Natalie does the same: twenty-four books in twenty-seven minutes. It's a story of homecoming.

    Odysseus returns from the Trojan War, loses all his men in the course of his adventures, pauses for some pleasurable interludes of infidelity and some less pleasurable interludes of kidnap, and finally returns to his wife Penelope on the island of Ithaca after ten years of war and a further ten years of travelling.

    ‘Rock star mythologist’ and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. Here she explores key stories from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They might be biographical, topographical, mythological or epic, but they are always hilarious, magical and tragic, mystifying and revelatory. And they tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago.

    This is the eighth series of the show and all the other episodes are available as podcasts on BBC Sounds.

    Producer: Mary Ward-Lowery

    • 34 min
    Lucretius

    Lucretius

    The poet Lucretius's major work is a six-book poem on epicurean philosophy and physics. Doesn’t sound exactly promising? But his contemporaries and poetic descendants RAVED about it, even Cicero, who is mean about everyone. Ovid says that ‘the verses of sublime Lucretius will die only on the day the world ends’. But the world nearly did end for his work because only one manuscript survived, lost for centuries, only to be rediscovered in the Renaissance.

    ‘Rock star mythologist’ and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. Here she explores key stories from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They might be biographical, topographical, mythological or epic, but they are always hilarious, magical and tragic, mystifying and revelatory. And they tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago. This is the eighth series (x 4) of the show and all the other episodes are available as podcasts on BBC Sounds.

    Guests include Professor Llewelyn Morgan and Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK.
    Producer: Mary Ward-Lowery

    • 28 min
    Spartan Women

    Spartan Women

    Uniquely in the ancient world, women from Sparta had extraordinary rights and freedom. Relatively speaking. They were educated: they learnt to dance, sing, recite poetry and to keep fit, in a regime where physical beauty and feminine strength were prized. They were not expected to marry until they reached maturity, which meant fewer of them died in childbirth. Their gods were female and so was the company they kept, since boys were separated from their families at age seven, and raised to be soldiers in this highly militarised society.

    ‘Rock star mythologist’ and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. She explores key stories from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They might be biographical, topographical, mythological or epic, but they are always hilarious, magical and tragic, mystifying and revelatory. And they tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago.

    With guests Professors Edith Hall and Paul Cartledge
    Producer: Mary Ward-Lowery

    • 28 min
    Pompeii

    Pompeii

    It seems that classical scholars are wrong about the date of the volcanic eruption that destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii almost two thousand years ago. It's taken a few ripe pomegranates and some squashed grapes, carbonised by pyroclastic flow, to change our minds about this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The eruption was definitely in the year 79, but the month? Most written sources mistakenly suggest it was August but if you know your fruit, you will know that pomegranates and grapes ripen in the autumn in Italy. So the presence of these fruit in the remains of the city suggest the eruption must have taken place later in the year.

    Natalie draws on the blisteringly dramatic account of the disaster by Pliny the Younger, writing to his friend, the historian Tacitus. She talks to archaeologist Dr Sophie Hay, who has spent nineteen years living and working in Italy and is a leading expert on the site. There are poignant details: many bodies discovered there were carrying keys, because people expected to be able to return to their homes once the eruption had subsided. Others had pillows wrapped around their heads to protect them from the pumice and lava raining down on them as they tried to escape.

    ‘Rock star mythologist’ and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. She explores key stories from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They might be biographical, topographical, mythological or epic, but they are always hilarious, magical and tragic, mystifying and revelatory. And they tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago.

    With guests Dr Sophie Hay and Professor Llewelyn Morgan

    Producer Mary Ward-Lowery

    • 28 min
    Clytemnestra

    Clytemnestra

    "Rock star classicist" and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. In these series she explores (historical and mythological) lives from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They are hilarious and tragic, mystifying, revelatory. And they always tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago.

    Today Natalie stands up for Clytemnestra, who has been characterised as the worst wife in Greek mythology. This is open to debate: she's certainly a good mother, if a little bit murderous of her husband. But it turns out that Agamemnon probably deserves it. After all he sacrifices one of their daughters to Artemis without a second thought and then turns up at home years later with Cassandra, the future-seeing woman he has 'won' as a prize (also read: trafficked and enslaved) at the Battle of Troy. These actions demonstrate a certain lack of respect for his wife, as well as cruelty of the highest order. Cassandra reads the room, obviously, but nobody listens to her. Clytemnestra has a good legal brain and states her case convincingly. But it's unlikely to end well.

    With Professor Edith Hall.
    Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery

    • 27 min
    Jocasta

    Jocasta

    "Rock star classicist" and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes is obsessed with the ancient world. In these series she explores (historical and mythological) lives from ancient Rome and Greece that still have resonance today. They are hilarious and tragic, mystifying, revelatory. And they always tell us more about ourselves now than seems possible of stories from a couple of thousand years ago.

    Today Natalie stands up for Jocasta, whose second marriage was to Oedipus. Now for some spoilers if you're thinking of watching or reading Sophocles' play Oedipus Tyrannus.

    After some years of happy marriage and four children, Jocasta discovers that Oedipus is, in fact, her son, and the murderer of her first husband (his father) Laius. Jocasta only has a few lines in the famous play, but we learn a remarkable amount about her character. She is smarter than her husband, quicker to understand what's happening and its implications. She is courageous. And she is quicker to act.

    The story - in all its forms - is still spellbindingly shocking today.

    With Professor Edith Hall.
    Produced by Mary Ward-Lowery for BBC Audio in Bristol

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
116 Ratings

116 Ratings

squirreltooth ,

Smart & Hilarious

Love laughing and learning all at the same time.

DrTankArtHistory ,

Love it!

Fun, entertaining presentation of interesting topics!

TruthGoodnessBeauty ,

Not to Be Missed

This podcast is my favorite. It’s the one I rationed out episodes and didn’t let myself binge so I could make them last! Natalie and guests take a topic that is full of life but has been sold through most of our educational experiences as fusty, old, arcana and entirely revives it. Every episode is funny, engaging, and enlightening. They are not-to-be-missed entertainment, the first, second, or even third time you listen to them.

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