Fueled by a Curiosity to Understand the Complexity of Civilization

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Kathy Chu

The light bulb switches on.  Something just clicks. Eureka!  No matter the expression used (although the last seems to be quite fitting for a Classics major), that moment of realization, when the abstract suddenly becomes palpable and real, is a phenomenon we’ve all experienced at one time or another. Standing across from an ostrakon propped up in a shiny glass case was that moment for me: I imagined an Athenian scratching the name Themistocles on the potsherd, or a supporter of Aristides handing them out pre-written as citizens walked into the agora that morning, and Aristides boarding the ship that would keep him from Athens for ten years.  To study Classics from ancient and modern sources is enriching and extremely rewarding, but to actually be in the same room as an object once used by one of the great civilizations f the world, to stand in the agora where Socrates once contemplated justice, and to peer over the edge of the Acropolis gave a sense of life to the texts and pictures that had previously seemed so far removed from my own life. Seeing the ostraka of Themistocles led me to a fascination with Athenian democracy that has since translated into a senior thesis project. Never have I felt more like a scholar, fueled by a curiosity to understand the complexity of civilization.  Studying abroad gave me the ability to see Classics in action, as the dynamic and evolving discipline it truly is.

Kathy Chu, Duke 2012