During a summer seminar at the University of Illinois, I got the opportunity to attend an optional session on papyrology, the study of reading ancient materials written on papyrus. The sample we were examining that day was a small fragment no longer than about five inches long. It wasn’t a significant text or piece of literature at all. It was a lease agreement for weaving looms, and in reading that, I stood back and it just clicked fully that this was a real person with their own hopes, fears, and dreams. They existed, they ran a business, they mattered to someone in a very tangible way.

In Classics, there’s a very real sense of being caught up in the lives of great men who did extraordinary things, but it’s a very different and all the more personal feeling to, essentially, have the “What do you do for a living?” small talk with someone whose name history doesn’t remember.

– Jacob Brakebill (Ph.D. Candidate)