Polite Emails to the Ancients: Winners and Runners-Up

The Third Antigone Competition

For our third competition, held this October, we asked you to write “polite emails” to given Ancient Greeks or Romans, offering them some quiet advice / an official reprimand / reams of bureaucratic jargonese, all from a very firmly 2021 standpoint. We were very pleased to receive eighty-odd entrants, with two-thirds of those coming in the Over-18s category. It was an admirably international field, and really cheering to see such a broad range of competitors take up the fun of rethinking and reframing famous figures of the Greco-Roman world – along with their undeniable idiosyncrasies – in the strict compass of a 250-word email.[1]

Our two brilliant winners are revealed just below. The process was not easy for the judges, who of course read all entries in anonymised form. Agreement was only reached after fervid re-reading and all-night discussion; in the end, however, the panel found themselves reposing in mutual and unanimous amusement. Since the three judges – Mary Beard, Jaspreet Singh Boparai and David Butterfield – conducted their shared debates in a number of discreet lay-bys in and around Chatteris, we must give a grateful nod to the forgiving staff of the Weasel and Wrench, and to the incomparable hospitality of Bab’s Bap’s off the A141.

On to the actual winners, then, each of whom takes away £250 to spend as they please. Limited as we were to one winner per category, we eventually decided in the Over-18s to recognise one of the sparkling entries by Stephanie Vance of Washington, DC, USA. It is a brilliant combination of an all-too-credible modern scenario with the absurd and destructive chaos of Greek myth. Myriad congratulations, Stephanie!

Take your son to work campaign

Dear Helios—

We were pleased to hear of your support for our TYSW (a.k.a. Take Your Son to Work) campaign and sorry to learn of the demise of said son. Phaethon was as shining and radiant as, well, the sun. We sincerely hope your other twenty-four children are of comfort to you during this difficult time.

I loathe raising a mundane concern like culpable liability during a time of mourning, and yet I must do so. Unfortunately, your son’s actions led to the deaths of millions of mortals, not to mention the property damage caused by the firebolt Zeus sent to end the carnage. As our insurance policy does not cover “acts of God(s),” I regret that you are financially liable for the resulting losses.

We recognize you had nothing but good and admirable intentions in bringing your son to your workplace. Every parent wants to prevent their child from being bullied and doubted when it comes to assertions of paternity. Allowing Phaethon to drive fire-breathing steeds through the skies certainly demonstrated to the naysayers that he was, indeed, your son! However, there’s still the fact that despite your precautions, Earth was almost burned to a crisp.

Again, we’re so sorry for your loss—and yet must still ask you to contact us at your earliest convenience to discuss recompense. We look forward to resolving this matter as quickly as possible.


Olympus Incorporated, TYSW Sponsors

In the Under-18 category we were also spoilt for choice. There were many really clever entries from younger entrants: some of the runners-up below are from a string of talented 12-year-ods. But, in the end, our choice fell upon Avalokita Bhatta, a 14-year-old from Sydney, Australia. Many congratulations to you too!

The ‘Domus Aurea’ Project

Welcome Imperator Nero Cladius Divi Claudius filius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, 

Quite the mouthful of a name you got there! We’re relatively informal here at Gensler: do you mind if I call you Nero? On behalf of the Gensler Architecture firm, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to you Nero, our first historical client! We were a bit hesitant at first to open up a historical clientele (the time travel tax is rather off- putting and our last offshore tax haven got raided by the FBI😒), but your project seemed like the innovative, grandiose type of stuff we love here. I understand you’ve christened the project the ‘Domus Aurea’. The plans you sent us show draft designs for a colossal imperial complex. The Golden House is a great idea, however we have hit a bit of snag. The complex is supposed to stretch across the Palatine to the Caelian and Oppian hills. Quite a bit of that land, by which I mean literally almost all of it, is private property so you may need to expropriate some land (eek!), roughly 200 acres in downtown Rome. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to not compensate these people either (I went to Harvard Business school), but hey you’re the emperor. Putting the logistics aside, we’re sending two of our architects over to you, Steve (Severus) and Chad (Celer) – we thought Roman aliases would be appropriate. But also *spoilers* Tacitus – that later Roman gossiper – calls them that and changing history comes with big fines we don’t wanna pay. Anyhoo, we’ll get back to you on the legal stuff, but until then, I look forward to working with you on this project.

With regards, William Hunter Smithfield III, Chief Gensler Architect.

Many thanks to all who played along with the contest, which we hope you enjoyed. You will find much of ‘the best of the rest’ below, followed by the name of the competitor in red. There are some absolute gems – so we are sorry that we can only celebrate their pyrotechnic skill by herewith publishing their work far and wide.

Runners-up to the Over-18 category

It was difficult even to select those which we should reprint here, since we had to leave many ingenious and witty entries unreported. But the collection below contains those that made us smile, laugh and gasp the most. If you disagree with our decisions, remember the wisest thing Cicero never quite said: de gustibus non est disputandum, “matters of taste should not be argued about.” We agree – except, that is, when they should be…

Dear Socrates

It was great to meet; I enjoyed the run through.  Thanks for agreeing to do the podcasts – you’re a natural!  (We pay in Euros, of course, so send me your bank details).

But on reflection I do have some feedback.  I definitely think it’ll work better if we have you “plus one” and do it as a conversation.  A single voice, however distinguished, is just a tad monotonous for the listeners.  And I’ve thought of a title!  How about we call the series “Socratic Dialogues”..?  I think that really works, unless you can suggest anything better, of course..?

We need a second voice.  One of your students would be fine.  That chap you introduced me to – Plato, Pluto? – he seemed ok.  Talked too much though and a little needy, I thought.  You’ll need to be clear with him: all he has to do is ask the questions.  You do the talking. 

And don’t be afraid to speak your mind, the public loves it.  Controversy is King – the listeners can’t get enough!  I know for a fact that lots of Athenian taxi drivers are in our demographic.  I don’t want to tempt fate (to borrow a phrase from Sophocles, another of our podcasters), but, basically, the more complaints we get, the happier we feel!   

Our studio is behind the Acropolis in that little cul-de-sac.  You don’t need to bring anything except your brain!  We’ll provide a light lunch.  And a drink of your choice – any thoughts?

(Desmond Clifford)

Re: PhD Proposal

Dear Claudius (if I may be informal; please do likewise),

I can see how committed you are and how passionately you have been working on Etruscan sources. I am glad to say there’s potential for a successful PhD proposal and there may also be a good chance for you to get a scholarship. 

The first question you should ask yourself concerns the aim of the project, since you would have at least three years of planning to do. You want to write something new that could become a reference work. And yet, at the same time, I suggest you reconsider the extent of your project on Etruscan History. What you are planning to do right now could easily cover 20 volumes! A bit too much for three years of work, don’t you think? Try to organise the prospect research in work packs and think of possible milestones you would like to achieve. 

Also, you may want to be more specific when you mention your sources, and no, you can’t quote your ex wife. 

As for the title, Thyrrenika may sound a bit pretentious but it is catchy enough to get the attention of the selection board.

Good luck with the application! I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Spes ultima Dea est, right? 

All the best, 

Giulia Marolla

Zoom Tutorials: Screen on, please!

Dear Ms. Medusa Gorgo,

Further to my comments on Tuesday, may I remind students that working video is encouraged for our weekly zooms? I’m sure you’re not the only one who might prefer to lounge around in onesies and attend online tutorials from the comfort of their beds, but the faculty strongly believes the act of getting suitably dressed and seated helps those participating give their full attention.

During lockdown, staff and students have commented how good it is to see friendly faces, whereas a screen full of dark, ominous rectangles is far from reassuring. Your excuse, that your hair is “petrifying”, comes across as both feeble and an exaggeration. None of us have had recourse to hairdressers for six months now; may I suggest an alice band?

The truth is, I’m struggling to put a face to your name. When I reviewed your student details, I found the passport photo submitted was a bubbled, ruined mess. It would be helpful, in addition to your video attendance, if you could email across a digital photo, so we can update our records?

P.S. Please don’t feel this is a criticism on the work you have submitted so far this term. Your paper on feminism in the Classics: “Why the Gods, and most of the Heroes, are Jerks” was exemplary, and I propose submitting it to the faculty newsletter, with your permission?

Hope to “see” you next Tuesday!

Professor Janet Mason, Dept. of Classics.

(Liam Hogan)

Dear Romulus,

Re: Proposed development SC43/1/Roma.

As you are aware, the Septem Colles region is a green field site, with no imminent plans or permission for urban development.  In order to consider your proposal, the following issues require further attention and/or action:

  1. Environmental impact assessment.  This is required to assess the suitability of the location of your proposal.  Reports from the waterways and sanitation departments are required to assess the capacity of the Tiber as both a water supply and waste disposal system.  Preliminary concerns have also been raised by waterways and animal rights organisations regarding proposals to utilise the Tiber in criminal justice proceedings.
  2. Road network.  Your plans for rationalisation of the road network have raised concerns in the local business community, who fear the loss of passing trade in the event of the proposed development.  We suggest, as a modification of your proposal, that only some roads lead to Rome.
  3. Existing infrastructure.  Concerns have been raised by neighbours regarding the pressure on existing infrastructure should your development go ahead.  Additional concerns have been raised regarding your citizenship policy and integration.  We would seek assurances that your settlement will not impact on those already in the vicinity.

Similar requests have been made to Remus (re SC43/1/Rema).  As permission for both developments is unlikely, could your proposals be combined?

Finally, may I reiterate the stance of the planning department, that claims of divine descent, mythological preordination, or lupine heritage will not influence our decision on planning matters.

(Antonia H.)

Dear Sir,

Here is some feedback on your recent Civil Service application.


  • You were marked down, for lateness.

Qualifications and skills:

  • We found some anomalies in your CV. In particular:
  • You say that you spent ten years with the army overseas, before making your own way home. However, we are unable to verify key dates and locations. 
  • You describe yourself as a man of “many trials”, yet have no legal qualifications.
  • There is a mismatch between your IT skills (you use obsolete versions of Word and have recent experience with Lotus and Epic Games Launcher) and those we require.

Personal qualities

  • Your verbal communication skills are impressive, although the term “wind-bag” did crop up.
  • You have reported anger management issues. We expect our staff to achieve the highest levels of client care, even when someone has outstayed their welcome.
  • We are concerned by the number of serious workplace incidents which have occurred under your leadership.
  • Your approach to resource management seems rather haphazard. (How big was your team, again?)
  • Your habit of forming close personal relationships with female co-workers concerns us – as, indeed, do your Underworld contacts.


  • One former colleague described how you left him to rot; another felt “cheated” by you (an experience he evidently found soul-destroying).  A business contact, meanwhile, said you were a “nobody”.
  • You described some management challenges at Whirlpool. A case of monstrous over-extension, we understand.

We hope this helps and wish you luck in your future career.

Human Resources

(Anne Hardy)

Re: Anti-social behaviour order issued against Mr Diogenes Cynicos

Dear Mr Cynicos,

Athens Social Services are in receipt of several complaints over inappropriate public behaviour recently exhibited by yourself.

So that citizens may feel Athens Social Services is responsive to their concerns, we have been unsparing in our efforts to get to the bottom of this matter.

Following investigation, we regret to inform you that we must issue you with an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO).

Your bursting into proceedings of the local academy waving a plucked chicken caused no amount of distress to the delicate constitutions of our esteemed academicians. While we appreciate it was in earnest that you wished to make your point, Mr Plato the principal in particular considered it a most unwholesome form of humour.

We were further concerned to learn that you apparently also choked the chicken in public, in front of your premises – a wine barrel, so we are informed.

A cursory inspection of said premises further revealed that you are also in violation of several environmental codes.

Your bush is severely overgrown around the front and your back passage has fungus growing in it. The choking of a chicken amid these already quite unacceptable circumstances constitutes a significant breach of regulation.

May I take this opportunity to remind you that should further complaints be raised, we shall be obliged to seize your premises and all and any poultry found thereupon.

We request you henceforth to refrain from choking any further chickens in public.

Kind Regards

Xanthias Eiron

Head – Athens Social Services

(Paul Wood)

About the cups and pan

Dear Jason,

Hi~ I am Doris, the host of the Seaside Halloween Party you and your friends attended a few days ago~ Sorry that I’m calling you Jason, because I never got the chance to ask for your real name. Still, it is so cool that you guys came as Greek Heroes, and I can’t believe that some of you actually know how to speak that language! The stories you guys told are like, so funny, and interesting. And the eating contest between Heracles and the guys was so funny! Anyhow, my friends and I had great fun with you guys around, but it seems like that you guys forgot to return a few things you borrowed as props, I think there was a vase, a cooking pan, some glass cups, and a plate. I remember that I sent you guys off to a ship, so it would be nice of you to DHL it to me when you have arrived at the next stop. Oh yeah, what is your number? Because I took so many nice pics of you guys 😀 if you use Instagram, I can also tag you there! Hope to hear soon from you~



P.S. Can you also ask Mopsus if you he knows where the pet goat he borrowed from my friend Pamela run to? She can’t find her after the party, and the goat does run away pretty often. She is quite worried, because she found some blood on the ground ☹

(Clare Chang)

Damage to University Property

Dear Strepsiades,

I am sorry you do not feel we have provided your son with a proper education, and that you were disappointed by the experience you had with us yourself recently, but I’m afraid we cannot condone your damage to the Vortex Building during the disturbances yesterday afternoon. No fewer than three students report your use of a mattock to damage the exterior of a building, as well as using a lighter in an apparent attempt to start a fire.

While I must impress upon you the seriousness of these actions, which would amount to criminal damage even if students had not been present, in light of your ongoing issues with your son and the role you allege we have played in aggravating these, we do not intend to press charges at this time. However, we do expect you to pay for the damage you have caused to university property, which our maintenance staff have assessed as coming to twelve Minae.

I understand you have also recently raised a complaint against Prof. Socrates over an allegation that your coat was stolen while attending a sporting event at our Palaestra Gym Complex last week. While we have full confidence in the integrity of our academic and non-academic staff, rest assured this will be fully investigated independently of recent events.

Kind regards,

Dr. Chaerephon Sphettaeus,

Heraclitean Professor of Physics and Senior Dean, Phrontisterion College, Athens

For academic enquiries: CSphettaeus@phron.ac.ath For college-related issues: dean@phron.ac.ath

(Harold Morgan-Grenville)


Dear Sulla,

I am writing to you for comment on an investigation some of our journalists are doing on ‘Cancel Culture’ that will soon be published. Some of the citizens of Rome have suggested your proscription lists are an example of cancel culture, but we at The Tribune recognise there is a more nuanced side to the debate.

Of course shameful populists such as Marius would have tried to accuse you and your party of ‘cancelling’ people, when of course you are simply protecting the Republic! Might we remind you that during your recent trip to Greece (bring back anything nice?) we ardently opposed Marius’ (seventh?!- I lose count!) consulship.

We do hope for you thoughts, perhaps even a quote, on the matter. We at The Tribune have long been a supporter of your political aims and defence of the Republic, even after Salacius, our gossip columnist, was ‘cancelled’ into the Tiber last week. We hope we can come to an understanding and continue our mutual support in this matter. After all, there is a consular election coming up (we assume- have you any idea when you will end your dictatorship?), and it’s better not to leave democracy to fortune.



(Tom Claybourn)

Dear Socrates,

We urgently need to discuss strategy for your upcoming legal proceedings.  As your professional counsel, I have several concerns about your proposed course of defence.

  • Whilst you do have the right to remain silent, answering “I know nothing” to every question posed by the court is likely to incur hostility from the judge and jury.
  • I advise against basing your defence on technicalities.  Whilst you are correct that an atheist by definition does not worship false gods, such minor technicalities carry little weight with the jury, and can instead alienate them further.
  • Similarly, flippant offers of compensation are not helpful to your case.
  • Whilst you may currently feel that the unexamined life is not worth living, I strongly suspect that you may change this view during aggressive cross-examination by the prosecution.

There are multiple alternative strategies that we can pursue:

  • Move to dismiss the trial as public defamation in the media (e.g. by Aristophanes) has prejudiced the jury, and/or the prosecution is motivated by personal agenda.
  • Call your many friends as witnesses to your good character/accept their bail offer.
  • Seek commutation of any sentence based on your age, dependents, previous distinguished military/public service, health etc.

If you insist on pursuing your current strategy for your defence, I cannot in all good conscience continue to act as your defence counsel.  I would urge you to change course, and consider the options proposed above.

Please reply with your decision as soon as possible.

(Antonia H.)

Dear Sappho,

Thank you for submitting the fragments of your poetry to The New Yorker. However, we are a bit concerned about the form. Have you considered haiku as an alternative to fragments?

Some of the poems read like complete thoughts, but others seem to trail off in the middle of an idea. Perhaps you can find a critique group that can give you feedback on how to polish your work.

For example, we felt you could be more specific with your language, as “things” is too vague in this poem:


Remembering those things
We did in our youth…
…Many, beautiful things…

What things did you do in your youth? Frolic on a hillside? Hang out at a 7-11 parking lot? Remember you want to show, not tell, the reader about the beautiful things of youth.

In contrast, some of the language you use in the other poems you submitted is quite archaic. In the 21st century, poetry has moved on from the Greek gods and goddesses. We enjoyed the LGBTQ love poems but love poems can be tricky as well for a modern audience.

Of the six poems you submitted, we liked this one the best for its simple language:

The Moon is Down

The Moon is down,
The Pleiades. Midnight,
The hours flow on,
I lie, alone.

Have you thought about digging into this theme more?

We are going to pass on your submission, but we encourage you to resubmit in the future.


The New Yorker

(Nina Synder)

Drama space submission

Dear Mr. L. Annaeus Seneca,

Thank you for submitting your screenplay Medea to Drama Space’s production call for the upcoming streaming season. Congratulations on a powerful work with exciting potential – Medea represents an inspiring female lead with supernatural powers! There is some confronting content, but nothing too graphic for our audience.

Nonetheless, we see problems with producing a series based on the work as it stands. While viewers are likely to empathize with Medea after her betrayal by Jason, we feel that her action in terminating their children is likely to cloud the messaging. Drama Space would not wish even inadvertently to reinforce stereotypes around ‘a woman scorned.’ There is also the character of Jason. Put simply, the guy’s a jerk! His relationship with a badass like Medea is hard for viewers to invest in.

One of our readers suggests a possible reinvention. Have you thought about strengthening the role of Creusa? The ‘two princesses’ theme is enjoying a cultural moment! Attraction between two strong women could take the story to new levels. Who wouldn’t want to see some smouldering sexual tension? There is also potential for diverse casting for both Medea and Creusa, noting that Medea’s background is described as ‘exotic’ and ‘foreign.’

Subject to revisions, we would definitely like to take another look at Medea. Our team also notes that there may be scope for an animated prequel involving two children and a golden sheep. Color us tantalized!

Very best wishes for your resubmission!

Drama Space Streaming

(Judy Stove)

Dear Mr Philoctetes

Our records indicate that after having sent four previous emails about the overdue medical treatment(s) indicated below, we regret to inform you that your surgery has now been cancelled.

Medical Treatment:

1 – Extraction of serpentine putrefaction from rancid foot

2 – (If 1 is not successful) Extraction of rancid foot from shin.

Your initial appointment was missed on Wednesday 9th September. Your rescheduled appointment was missed on Thursday 24th September.

Only under limited circumstances would you be eligible to reschedule. These circumstances are as follows.

– You have been abandoned on a desolate island, making your attendance at hospital impossible

– No other circumstances listed

Should either circumstance apply, contact us forthwith so that we might heal your southernmost extremity.


Dr N.E. Optolemus

Senior Consultant

(Jonny Walker)

Travel visa request: VR_234_P_Hades

Dear Mrs. Persephone Hades,

I’m writing to inform you that we have re-reviewed your travel request and unfortunately, the answer remains no.

As you are aware, these are unprecedented times, and we must all make sacrifices to protect vulnerable others, our health care system, and even ourselves.

By your own admission, you would be travelling from an area with a shockingly high death rate, and that you “habitually” spend your summer months on these shores is far from a strong enough reason for us to waive the strict lockdown restrictions. Nor, alas, is your desire to visit your mother, who we are given to understand is in robust good health, other than understandably missing you.

And I’m afraid vague threats of “dire consequences” from both your husband and your mother as a result of having to curtail your holiday plans do nothing at all to assist your cause.

So, once again, we must decline your travel request. If it’s any consolation, (and we hope you’ll excuse us if this comes across as somewhat flippant), the weather here this spring is shockingly bad. It’s almost like winter is never going to end!

Yours with regret,

Helen Watson,

Senior Manager

Pandemic Travel Visa Review Panel

(Liam Hogan)

Ofsted report on The Academy, Athens

After our recent visit please find below our Ofsted report.

Ofsted Report on The Academy, Athens

CEO and Lead Academic Supervisor: Plato

Date: roughly end of 5th century BCE/beginning of 4th

Ofsted Ranking: the good

Lead Inspector: Xenophon of Athens

General conclusions:  The Academy provides an ideal of good education for young people.

Teaching and Learning: The curriculum is rather over-focussed on philosophy and mathematics, but some outstanding discussions were observed in the lessons. However, pupils should be encouraged to contribute more than “yes, Socrates; certainly, Socrates” most of the time.  The academy should pay attention to widening the curriculum and to the reintroduction of poetry and drama after the last set of teachers was expelled.  The streaming system of gold, silver and bronze ability ranges is rather old-fashioned but each of them is well-catered for with a suitable curriculum for each.  Promotion to the gold stream is limited but social status is no barrier to reaching the highest standard of achievement.  However, the school may wish to revise its motivation system for the highest achievers and not rely solely on the love of knowledge being its own reward. 

Premises: in general the accommodation is rather Spartan, but the cave chosen is of suitable dimension with good ventilation and light from the fire.  Pupils should be allowed more time for physical education and to get out of the cave to see the sun more often.

Examination, assessment criteria and data: awaiting evidence of how the appearance of success can become a reality.

John Bulwer

Dear Oedipus,

I hope all is well with you? I’m emailing as you’ve missed our last two sessions.  I thought it might be helpful to recap here so we can pick back up at our next appointment.

When we last spoke, you were telling me about how happy you are in Thebes, and the support you receive your wife and family.  You said that you were feeling calmer and less quick-tempered, and better able to manage those intrusive thoughts about your mother and father.

We also discussed individual agency, and developing an internal locus of control (instead of accepting events as “fate”).  You mentioned how sometimes this can feel like the weight of responsibility falls entirely on you, and we explored strategies to help with this, including delegation of some tasks.  You were going to ask your brother-in-law to help with some research at Delphi; how did that go?

Finally, whilst the main purpose of our sessions is to help you, just a gentle reminder that your attendance and engagement with therapy is mandated by the terms of your rehabilitation order.  In order for the DVLA to issue you a new licence, we need to demonstrate that you have addressed your road rage issues successfully.

I feel we have been making excellent progress to date, and should keep that momentum going.

I hope we see each other again soon.

Dr. S.P. Hinks

Registered psychotherapist

(Antonia H.)

Dear Titus,

Congratulations! Your submission, ‘On The Nature Of Things’, has been reviewed by a team of our particle physicist peer reviewers, and we are proud to announce that we will publish your paper in the next edition of Quarkerly, which is due to appear in December.

We were really impressed by the quality and range of your research, but, most of all, by the originality of the format you chose. I had never before read a scientific paper written in verse, least of all hexameter – taking after everyone’s favourite author Ennius, I see! 😉

The team and I do have a few suggestions to make, however, about things that could be tweaked just slightly to make your argument even more persuasive, so take a look:

Terminology. –

In scientific writing, terminology must be consistent! There are conventions, Titus. Please use ‘electrons’ instead of ‘seeds of life’, and ‘atoms’ instead of ‘primitive things’. Everyone knows a ‘downwards force’ is gravity, so write it down! 

Myths. –

I think if we could keep these to a minimum that would be great. Not everyone knows who ‘the first Greek man to raise arms against religion’ was. Who was that, anyway, Richard Dawkins? Didn’t know he was Greek… 

Representation. –

I can see you’re trying really hard to include women’s contribution to science in your research — and that really is admirable. I love that you credit the essence of life to a female goddess! Venus! So progressive! But that needs to go, I’m afraid.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on these suggestions.

Warm wishes,

Dr Lumin

(Isabella Jakobsen)

January 15, 2020

Dear Cassandra,

We are in receipt of your letter to our agency.  We appreciate any threat level information from the public. For that matter, it is often an individual, such as a doctor in the heart of Africa, who notifies us of a potentially dangerous outbreak. We take all such warnings seriously. 

To that end, we have carefully reviewed your letter. When we read your statement, “Beware! I see a worldwide coronavirus pandemic brewing! I see millions dying!” We have to ask ourselves, on what basis does this individual raise this warning? I see that you describe yourself as a “concerned citizen, privy to the secrets of the gods.”

My colleagues and I are at a loss for how to deal with your letter. There are many viruses that are coronaviruses, including the common cold. I cannot activate any warning based on your letter as it does not meet our criteria.

I have a few questions to ask:

  1. Are you experiencing visions? Do you see things other people do not?
  2. Do you hear voices other people do not?
  3. Is there any family history of schizophrenia?

 I fully understand that you are “privy to the secrets of the gods.” I am concerned that you may be dealing with early signs of mental illness. These diseases can be treated. I would recommend that you seek help. 


Early Warning Desk

World Health Organization

(Janet Tamaren)

Collection for LHL

Dear Varro, 

I have just gone through your Collection in Latin Philology (apologies for the delay – too many Faculty meetings!). I’m impressed by the wealth of material that you managed to include in three hours – truly remarkable! Unfortunately, what matters in an exam is relevance. What are all these digressions on the topography of Latium? Not to mention zoology (can you please explain what an incurvicervicum pecus is?!). And I appreciate that you quote Ennius and Lucilius from memory, but better to paraphrase than to mess up the original. 

Your etymologies are completely off the mark. Stick to what we said in class. lucus from non lucendo? We encourage students to challenge scholars’ views, but this is sheer madness. Also, I hope that I got you wrong here and that you don’t really think that Latin comes from Aeolic. Did you take the introductory circus to PIE last term? 

Now, structure is the key to a high mark. You keep promising that you’ll discuss syntax, but you never do. Have you handed in all the pages to the examiner? I hope they didn’t get lost in the University mail service. Last year we lost Cato’s thesis on Ethics. Poor guy, a very serious student. 

As to your Latin Prose Composition, please, we’ve already discussed this in tutorials: pick up your Caesar again. I know that they are only conventions, but to write Latin you must know your Cicero. Your relative clauses are a disaster! 


Prof. W. D. C. M.

(or rather Althea Sovani)

Corinth High Court (Queen’s Bench & Family Divisions) – Jason v Medea

Dear Medea, 

We are instructed by your estranged husband, the celebrated sailor, Jason (“our client”). We note your interview with P.O. Naso (Roman Times: “Argo-Nought!”).  

You make a series of defamatory allegations against our client: 

  • You claim that our client did not secure the renowned ‘Golden Fleece’ solely by his own efforts but with “clever charms and potions”, administered by you.  
  • You describe our client’s fiancée as a “mistress”, implying that she is disreputable; you further aver that she is “a terrible step-mother”.  

All of these assertions are manifestly false; our client has never failed a doping test. 

We also note your threats against our client and his fiancée. 

In the circumstances, our client has sought immediate injunctive relief to prevent further publication of these libels; he also seeks, through the Family Division of the Corinth High Court, custody of the children of the marriage; he considers them not to be safe in your care in light of your clearly unstable mental state, and apparent dabbling in the occult. We also note with extreme concern the warrant for your arrest in your native Colchis on charges of fratricide/mutilation of a corpse.  

Our client also seeks damages and, in view of a legitimate concern that you might flee the jurisdiction, impounding and sequestration of the dragon-drawn chariot (believed to be your principal asset), registered in your name (Registration: STRIGA 1), at the Corinth Vehicle Licensing Centre.  

Kindly provide, by return, an address for service of proceedings. 

Yours sincerely,  

Euripides H. Furens (Partner) 

AeschylusSophoclesEuripides, Solicitors, Athens 

(Roy Calcutt)

Dear King Midas,

Firstly, congratulations on your recent financial success!  Whilst I would not normally endorse investments based on advice given in vino, that tip from Silenus definitely paid off!

Now that you have successfully grown your treasury, we need to discuss the next steps in your wealth management strategy.

In my experience, when investors experience such a dramatic return on their investment, they can sometimes get carried away and entrench too much into that single commodity.

With this in mind, I wonder if we should now take a more balanced approach to building your investment portfolio.  Precious metals, like any other market, are governed by the laws of supply and demand.  The recent explosion in supply is already showing its effect, with a downwards trend in gold prices across the market.  I would therefore advise that we diversify your investment portfolio into other areas at the earliest opportunity.  I have attached a selection of brochures for established and emerging markets which are showing great promise.  I would particularly draw your attention to the exciting investment opportunities emerging in the music business.

Please have a read through, and let me know your thoughts.

Touch base with you soon!


G. Knott, Financial Advisor

Phrygian Wealth Management Ltd.

(Ralph Benton)

My dear Publius

I was so sorry to hear of your recent departure to the shores of Pontus – I hope you find that wretched place to be as kindly as its name suggests: poor old Apsyrtus’s shadows still linger on the shoreline. 

Forgive me putting my nose in (although you, for one, certainly know enough about noses!) – but I really thought you prodded Augustus just a few too many times.  To be sure, your carmen certainly left him speechless and there were far too many references which would have left you in a whole lot of trouble if you’d stayed here in Rome; this generation just wasn’t ready for that – and that carmen will remain risqué for generations to come. However, it is your error that has really set the cat amongst the pigeons: without doubt, I’d encourage you to keep this secret – you won’t want future generations digging through the detritus of your poems and piecing it all together.   

As you sit there in your sadness, can I encourage you to put stylus to papyrus again and set the record straight: now may be just the right time to fess up – in part – as to where it went wrong; while some time has passed, perhaps admit to both the carmen and the error, but keep the details of the error silent (if I were you – it’s too much of a hot potato back here) – it’ll add a bit of mystique to the whole sorry affair and detract from the years that have passed since AA was first made public.  Let’s face it, brother: you’ve merely stumbled into this error – you’re like a latter-day Actaeon seeking shade and water, but stumbling across the naked Diana – your very sustenance has brought about your downfall. 

Anyway – do what you want with that: I can’t imagine for one minute that future generations will want to read your creative output from such a god-forsaken place as Pontus – but you may just be able to work some of these ideas into your poems, even if you’re the only one that gets to read them. 

Our beloved Sulmo laments its loss. Sulmo nobis patria est. 


(Lee Edmond)

Tough love about your love life


I want you to know how impressed I am with how you’ve been handling Hera’s curse. It’s totally not fair she took your voice away! Constantly repeating everyone must suck (especially with so many mortals saying stupid stuff, am I right?). You’ve been super strong through the whole thing.

Soooo…because you’re so strong I know you’ll be able to handle some tough love. The other Oreads and I are super worried about you and this ongoing Narcissus-obsession, especially now that he’s a plant. I’m putting this bluntly, so remember I love you and I want you to be happy…

Narcissus was just not into you.

There’s no denying he’s totally gorgeous, even as a flower. But sweetie, he ignored you and stared at his reflection so long he TURNED INTO VEGETATION! Think about that. And even if it were possible to get with him, plant-deity relationships never turn out well—remember Daphne and Apollo?

Don’t waste your time pining after that self-absorbed jerk. Put yourself out there! Dionysus is ALWAYS having awesome parties, and nymphs drink for free all night! Even with your language infirmity I know you’d be popular. Men LOVE a woman who repeats everything they say.

Anyway, let me know when you’re free to hang. With the Oreads as your wing nymphs I know you’d have a great time.

Hang in there,


P.S. If you come party with us I promise I’ll say “Hera’s a bitch” so you can repeat it—haha!

(Stephanie Vance)

Dear Medusa,

We would like to question you about the disappearance of the following men in the LA metro area. We accessed your Match.com account and found you were the last person to see these men alive before they disappeared. We also have looked through your phone records and found text messages to your sister Stheno.

1. Jason, last seen May 2, Starbucks, Malibu

Text: “OMG all he did was talk about his ex-wife Medea. I agree she sounds like a terrible mother, but I don’t want to hear about it.”

2. Dionysus, last seen May 30, Margot, Culver City

Text: “He ordered three bottles of wine at dinner for himself! He needs to find an AA meeting and get some help.”

3. Achilles, last seen June 15, Urth Caffe, West Hollywood

Text: “He sure talked about his ‘friend’ Patroclus a lot. I don’t think they’re just friends.”

4. Odysseus, last seen July 7, The Cheesecake Factory, Marina del Rey 

Text: “I don’t care if he got blown off course, being more than an hour late for a date is just plain rude.”

5. Heracles, last seen July 27, Aliki’s Greek Taverna, Los Angeles  

Text: “He definitely goes to the gym a lot. But he kept saying he was the strongest man in the world LOL.”

6. Agamemnon, last seen August 4, Troy’s Burgers, Fullerton

Text: “Totally lied about his age! No way he is 35. And all that stuff about sacrificing his daughter for his career. Yawn!”



(Nina Snyder)

Zeno Accreditation

Dear Dr. Zeno,

Thank you for submitting an application for accreditation of your learning consultancy, Stoa Poikile Limited. Gorgeous graphics, looks a great location!

While fully supporting the current expansion in the Athenian philosophical space, we are mindful of the requirement to offer only quality courses. While we note your claim to offer a curriculum which updates the late Professor Plato’s work, we have seen similar claims from a range of entrepreneurs. Dr Epicurus has established his own consultancy in picturesque grounds while also offering an enticing product.

Against this background, the Stoa Poikile program looks somewhat harsh. As you know, we are keen to attract students from all over the Mediterranean – education is Athens’s biggest export! – yet we find it difficult to envisage parents sending their sons to be lectured about virtue, particularly as your prospectus states that only ‘the Sage’ is truly virtuous. Who is this ‘Sage’? Your material is unclear on this point.

More importantly, we cannot, with respect, overlook what we are advised was your past association with Mr. Crates and Ms. Hipparchia. While no charges, we understand, were ever laid in relation to the indecent exposure, there is the potential for an unfortunate impact on the ‘Athens brand.’ At this stage we cannot accord accreditation to Stoa Poikile Limited.

We recommend you resubmit your application for next year’s round. In the meantime, several philosophy schools have launched successful merchandise lines, and you may wish to pursue this route.

Yours sincerely

Athens Board of Sophistry

(Judy Stove)

Re Your one star Amazon review


Thank you for taking the time to review our product!  

We would like to respond to some of the concerns you raise. 

1.      We regret that the wax we use in our product does not meet your high standards. However, we can assure you that it did not come from Corsican bees. On Page 2 of the attached brochure (the HAPPY LOCAL BEES! graphic) we set out our commitment to using locally-sourced ethical beeswax from 100% pesticide- and hemlock-free farms.  

2.      The distinctive colouring of our wax comes from plant-based dyes. Using blood in our manufacturing process would contravene our Sustainability Policy (attached), requiring an estimated 15, 524 cows (or 148,662 humans) to be slaughtered p.a. 

3.      We source only the finest quality timber, and reviews often highlight its natural beauty. It is possible that our wood sheltered owls and vultures, but our Wildlife Preservation Policy (attached) precludes discrimination between species on the basis of creepiness.

4.      We are unable to share information about the criminal records or employment history of individual timber yard workers, in compliance with GDPR.  

We understand that you left our product to be crushed by passing traffic. However, if you would like to return the tablets (or their remains), we will honour our Money-Back Guarantee, or send a like-for-like replacement.  

(PRO-TIP: If you select from our Heavenly Scents Range instead of our Executive and Legal Range, your note might be more favourably received.) 

Yours etc 

The Duplices Tablet Co. ✍

(Cora Beth Fraser)

RE: Great Dionysia Submisson: ‘Elektra’

Dear Euripides,

REFERENCE: Great Dionysia Submisson: ‘Elektra’.

I have to admit, we at the submissions team were disappointed with your latest entry for the Great Dionysia.

Everybody knows, especially you, that Sophocles has been working on his ‘Elektra’ for at least two years. To swoop in now with your ‘Elektra’ before he’s had a chance to bring his (likely very superior version) to the stage seems pretty unsporting.

Now it’s true that Sophocles has lifted his plot straight from Aeschylus’ ‘Libation Bearers’, but the man is a legend. Need I remind you he’s had over twenty festival wins to his name. We are confident his masterpieces – ‘Dionysiacus’, ‘Xoanephoroi’, not to mention the ‘Nauplios Pyrkaeus’ – will never be forgotten. I’m not sure we could say the same about your Medea (placed third, if I recall?).

Let’s be frank, it’s not just that the Athenians deserve a retelling of the Elektra story as only Sophocles can. We actually found your version rather distasteful. In particular, the recognition scene between Orestes and Elektra, so moving from Aeschylus, seemed mere fodder for parody in your hands.

Sophocles has been most forgiving about your entry. Honestly, I don’t think he expects much from your version, and fortunately, our dear citizens seem to have an endless appetite for the same four myth cycles. But we must insist this doesn’t happen again. Perhaps just stick to Troy itself – you can’t have exhausted that quite yet!

With kind regards,

The Great Dionysia Submissions Team

(Rebecca Casson)

Runners-up in the Under-18 Category

Hey king! 😊

So as I’m sure she told you, the one on one session with Jocasta last week went GREAT!🎉

I’m hoping you want to try coming back this week (it is couple’s therapy after all) there’s stuff I think you would BOTH benefit from talking through together.

She mentioned that you accidentally called her mum during sex one time? Let’s unpack that. She seemed really weirded out by it and said she needs to talk to you about that in private, if you like I can leave next week’s session for a while to give you two some one-on-one time, I know some clients are uncomfortable talking about things with the therapist present so let me know if this will help out! 😊

Just one more thing I wanted to mention, know you’re a busy man and this won’t take up too much of your time (stuff to do in Thebes, I get it.) but… your outburst when I mentioned any relationship with your parents was a bit much. You’d never mentioned you’re an orphan, and honestly you got excessively violent and it wasn’t ok 🚫 (plus, the whole thing made Jocasta wayyy uncomfortable.) so let’s dial it down a bit next time?

Anything you want to get off your chest, I’m contractually obliged to secrecy. Even if you’d like… killed your dad and Jocasta was actually your mum (LMAO😂) I couldn’t tell anyone.

Hope to see you next session!


(your marriage counsellor)

(Lily Birch)

Eleusinian Mysteries (CONFIDENTIAL)

Dear Eleusinian Mysteries,

I am a writer for Ancient Insider: the latest magazine bringing you the oldest gossip! And I was wondering if I could get an interview with you sometime this week? This would be groundbreaking as you’re so… well… mysterious (sorry bad pun, I know)!

In preparation for such a big interview, I thought I might give you an idea of some of the questions ahead of time!

Pigs: what’s the obsession?! Yes they’re cute n’ all, but walking with them all that way only to kill them? Seems a bit of a waste, right?

Who the hell is Iacchus! Tell me everything! His parents, his connection to you, why you call his name during processions?! So very strange… 🤔 

Now, here’s the big question… the one we’re all (quite literally) dying to know…WHAT’S THE SECRET?!! Come on! You’ve kept it a secret for long enough! Our readers want, no, they HAVE to know!!! It would be such a great piece of gossip, and would make me such a famous and well respected journalist (and Ancient Insider will pay you handsomely for this article, so what’s to lose?! It’s a win win situation!).

I know you’ll all be hesitant… and I don’t blame you! But please consider it? And umm… please don’t do anything to me if I publish this article! 😵

Reply ASAP!

From Ancient Insider 🏺 

P.S. As a heads up, this article will be featured alongside “Bread and Circuses: what’s the obsession?!”

(Poppy Shaw)

Suggestions for 432 re-election campaign

Dear Pericles, son of Xanthippos

Congratulations on your speech at the opening of the new temple! Moving, inspiring, it even sounded sincere. οἱ πολοι received it well: many of the ‘undecided’ citizens were looking more enthusiastic at yesterday’s Assembly sitting, which is encouraging for your approval ratings and moves us closer to your re-election as strategos.

However, the plague needs to be addressed ASAP. So far only 3000 people have died but political opponents are exaggerating the figures by including women, children, slaves and foreigners (!) in the death toll. Something superficial should defuse the situation: perhaps just send the sick to the healing springs at Epidauros?

Our political divorce from Megara is a shambles: the sheep don’t have the right paperwork to cross to Euboea and very few allied couriers are willing to deliver grain. Many of our citizens are starving and now shortage of firewood is apparently a thing.

This is giving your opponents ammunition to stir up unrest. I recommend you have a few ostracised immediately. If others continue to make trouble, we’ll keep them busy with a red herring attack on some coastal town. Our allies already don’t trust us since you moved the Delian League Treasury to Athens, so it won’t matter if we sack some random fishopolis. You can make another stirring speech in front of the ships!

Send my regards to Aspasia (I think I’ve buried the story about the cost of the wall hangings!).

Ffion Shute

Dear Jason,

How’s everything been since you left Colchis? We don’t hear much of the Argives, so I’m hoping it’s all going well 😊. I’m sure you can imagine what a stir it caused. We’re all just DYING to know the inside story.

I’m a reporter with ‘Colchis Today’, and I was hoping to get a few answers from you, sooo many rumours are spreading around after Medea’s departure and a tell-all interview with you could go a long way to setting everyone’s heart at ease.

Here’s a few topics I’m hoping we can cover in your interview (taking this would REALLY help your reputation here, Aeetes is FURIOUS!)


We all know how you and the argonauts came to Colchis to take the golden fleece, but lately an anonymous source has started to accuse you of doping. He says Medea gave you some cream that made you unnaturally strong and flame proof, and that she drugged the serpent. Is a rematch in order? Did you REALLY win the golden fleece?


The crown prince of Colchis, dead behind the Argo. In all the outrage, there’s been two versions that spread of his death. Did you kill him? Or did Medea?


Finally, there’s been reports of you comparing Medea to “Greek Women”, saying that she’s a lesser woman because of where she’s from. Frankly, this is highly problematic and xenophobic, and we’re all waiting for an apology. 😓

Hope to hear from you soon,


(Lily Birch)

Cease and Desist Letter to Publius Vergilius Maro

Dear Mr Publius Vergilius Maro,

We are writing this letter to inform you that your attempt to write an epic narrating the story of Aeneas after the events of the Iliad has been noticed by the public. Our client, Homer, has retained us for many years, and the similarity of the content and style of your epic, the ‘Aeneid’, to the Iliad and Odyssey is suspicious.

Some examples include, but are not limited to:

(i.) Frequent use of ‘pius Aeneas’, like Mr Homer’s ’swift-footed Achilles’.

(ii.) The night raid of Nisus and Euryalus in Book 9, copying brazenly Odysseus’ raid in Book 10 of the Iliad.

(iii.) Aeneas’ armour being made by Vulcan, just like Achilles’ armour was made by Hephaestus.

(iv.) A catalogue of ships idiosyncratic to Mr Homer’s Iliad.

Given our client’s high reputation among the among the peoples of classical antiquity, we have grounds to suspect that you may have an intention to malevolently profit from Mr Homer’s good name and poetry. This can constitute as fraud and is a crime under the law.

Therefore, to resolve such issues, we request you, in goodwill, to stop any progress you have made in completing your poem and order it to be incinerated professionally. Unfortunately, if you do not comply with our request, we will be forced to proceed with legal action to defend Mr Homer’s intellectual property and copyrights, which may result in a fine, or even incarceration for you.

Yours Sincerely,

Russell Kwok J.D.

Dear Medea,

Hope all is well!

I know we don’t have a session scheduled until Friday, but I thought I’d check in with you as I’ve heard some concerning rumours.

I’d like to hear your side of recent events. We’ve made excellent progress with coming to terms with Jason’s actions. I strongly advise you to stay away from him and his new friend so that you don’t slip into old habits. Though, I must say that I couldn’t be prouder of how far you’ve come since we began our sessions.

You’ve confided in me about how, being in a foreign country, you feel isolated. I’ve tried to reassure you that you are an integral part of the community (and irreplaceable in our weekly mothers’ meetings!) but if you think it would help, I’d suggest taking a trip home to your family, I’m sure they’d be delighted to see you after so long.

I’m very thankful that you have your children to support you at what can only be considered a trying time. They will be your greatest consolation, so don’t be afraid to be open with them.

Remember to utilise the breathing techniques we’ve gone through at any time. You know I won’t give these rumours any credence until I’ve spoken to you, we both know how unreliable they can be in this town! I have complete trust in you and expect my fears to be allayed in our next session.

Give the children my love,

Dr Argonaut

(Eleonora Coull)

The Olympic Games

Dear Nero,

How are you? I hope you’ve had time to rest up from the Olympics; you definitely had a successful competition – even if wasn’t a traditional version of the games.

Talking about traditions, however, I’m afraid to say that I am quite appalled at your conduct, both whilst in Greece and when you were still planning the trip. I don’t want to have a rant, but I think we need to set some new boundaries in place when we meet for our counselling session tomorrow – clearly there’s still a long way to go. 

We all know you love poetry, music and drama. However, that’s not what the Olympic Games are known for! The majority of the public was furious, and rightly so, I believe. “The Emperor just converted the games to suit his own disgusting, personal tastes of an elaborate spectacle” were the words of one of the judges. I mean no offence at all, but just for once, could you not have accepted that what you want isn’t always right?

Finally, you know what I am going to say. Chariot racing. I was quite frankly horrified! Really?! Breaking rules aside, I’m not sure you are the most inspiring charioteer out there. Maybe leave that to the professionals and the men fit to do so?

It’s just a thought but maybe make that your first and last Olympic Games. I’m not too sure the Greek public loved you too much.

I’ll see you at our session tomorrow,

Pia xx

(Pia Shah)

Dear Catullus,

As your editor, I am delighted by your most recent verses! Such excellent imagery, and the way your words fall into the meter is absolutely exquisite! I especially love your 51st poem, and how it’s such a beautiful take on Sappho’s fine poetry (some may call it plagiarism- oh well 🙄– in fact, I might need to ask around to see if it is)! Still, good to see you finding joy in writing under such trying circumstances 😬

However, as your friend, I am growing slightly worried…

I know you’re going through some things right now Catullus, and (while I know it’s not part of my job description) I just wanted to check in to see how you’re doing. Perhaps it would be a good idea to stop pining over Clodia. I can hardly imagine how she feels to see your – how should I put it (?) – desperate poems? Some might call it a little bit creepy or strange? I’d better hold my tongue, but maybe take a holiday or find a therapist?? 🙏

Anyway… your poems are coming along nicely! Oh, and the PDF with your 85th poem on seems to only contain two lines? I’ve tried reloading it but the rest hasn’t appeared, so if you could resend it soon that would be lovely.

That should be about all for now! I hope you feel better soon? 😬

From, your Editor.

P.S. If you want the address for a good therapist, let me know!

(Poppy Shaw)

Dear Emperor Nero,

Good to see you for a session today. You have had a very tough up bringing: that helps give perspective. It can be very tough to lose a parent at such a young age. Your father’s absence has created a life deficient of a moral compass and role model. You also experienced betrayal by Caligula stealing your inheritance: this has clearly made you really mad. Why did you try to kill your mother? Was it because she killed your father, or because she was planning to kill you, or was it because she was dominating and violent? We must explore this more in your next session.

You must have also felt very annoyed and disheartened when you married Octavia too. She didn’t give you an heir so you had to look somewhere else. Exiling Octavia from Rome didn’t go too well with the public: this caused you irritation as you no longer loved her but your people still did. So, you then decided to kill her. We should discuss this further.

I understand that although you like music and the arts, as Emperor of the Roman Empire, you can’t play on the lyre and rehearse poetry all day long. This is a sad affair – do you think that suppressing these desires made you kill you mother and wife?

When we next meet we can reflect on the current relationship you have with your people and family, and how this may influence your next steps.

Elliot, Psychiatrist

(Elliot Norris, aged 12)

Company Pet Peeves

Dear Hades,

Your Human Resources Department has received complaints regarding your pet being in the workplace, particularly highlighting his yapping. Hades is a sprawling mass of caverns; with Kerberos, that three-throated hound, the din ought to be a Tartarean hell. Hypnos himself, emerging from his poppy-covered cave, frequently hollers: “Somebody shut that damned dog up!” Something to do with his “beauty-sleep”.

Nowadays, mental wellbeing is high-priority: when running a busy afterlife operation, one must make the life-death commute relaxing, especially for those with membership to the Elysian Fields. 84% of new arrivals rate their welcome-experience “okay”—a greeting by an enormous, three-headed, serpent-maned canine is quite terrifying. There have also been horrified reports of a giant, curious nose sniffing the behinds of unsuspecting shades.

Honestly, Kerbie is a dear friend. So I must reveal the plot to replace him with his brother, Orthrus. One cannot simply replace an oversized death-hound with a little pet that couldn’t execute his previous job! Still, you mustn’t neglect immediate action.

A certain ferryman, known to moan about leaving Snippy (his Stymphalian Bird) with his mother every day for work, has suggested a solution: allow employee pets into Hades. The staff’s resentment resides within your hypocrisy—you don’t follow the same rules.

I hold no ill feeling toward Kerbie—we’ve shared many lunch-breaks. However, you, Host of Many, must acknowledge employees’ feelings. Find some rectification before greater conflict is sparked.

I expect a change within the fortnight.

Yours sincerely,

Phil O’Skylacs

Head of the HHRD

(Isabel Sykes)

Urgent message to Agrippina (the younger)

Dear Agrippina, 

Congratulations on your promotion to Empress! Well, I say empress, but rather mother of the Princeps (we all know there’s not much difference). Claudius, bless the old tart, is finally gone. But they know. Agrippina as the head of your PR team, I feel obliged to tell you, everyone in Rome is whispering. Claudius is dead but not by natural causes, they’re pointing their crooked fingers at you. Mushrooms wasn’t it. You failed to consult me about this but even I know you poisoned Claudius-aconite, I presume? This has Locusta written all over it, wasn’t she in jail for “nuper veneficii damnata”, did you let her out? I do not trust these Gaulish types. You should fire her. Gaius Stertinius Xenophon told me she botched it, he had to finish Claudius off with a poison covered feather he used to make him throw up. You managed to get the Doctor involved😑? You are very lucky Halotus is half dying on the toilet because of those sketchy oysters Claudius made him taste last Sunday, or else he wouldn’t have been so happy to bump off his boss. If you need a scapegoat, use Locusta-people will point fingers and I like the Eunuch. So what story do you want to run with? I reckon we bribe some doctors and play it off as cerebrovascular disease, our modern audience think you’re an iconic gaslight, gatekeep girlboss and they’ll pretty much let you off the hook. Please don’t give me another heart attack😃

Brenda Fisher,

Head of PR

(Avalokita Bhatta)

Dear Virgil, 

I’m emailing as an avid reader of your works. Fine, not an avid reader-I’m a fangirl. I freaked out over ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’, which I considered a masterpiece. However, I have complaints. No, scratch that – pieces of constructive criticism. Firstly, Eurydice’s death. I read that she dies instantly after being bitten by a snake. However, after doing some research, I have found that the most dangerous snake’s bite takes an hour to kill somebody without medical treatment. So, scientifically speaking, her death is impossible. You’re lucky I picked up on that- can you imagine if you publicised something that was (gasp) biologically inaccurate? Secondly, being so devastated by Eurydice’s death, Orpheus travels down to the Underworld and plays his lyre for Hades, who agrees to let Eurydice go on one condition. This is the King of the Underworld. Is he going to get emotional and teary-eyed after hearing a tune? No. Lastly, Orpheus being a complete idiot and looking behind him to check if Eurydice was there, after specifically being told not to.  This made me want to jump off a cliff into the Aegean Sea. He had one job. This made me freak out. What happened to happily ever afters? I came to you for an enjoyable reading experience, and instead I get a tale about a stupid man who can’t follow instructions, which seems to be a common trend in Greek mythology. I hope you take my points into consideration. 

Your budding literary editor, 

Rhea Cherrington 

We were thrilled to get a selection of entries from a Year 8 class at Castle Court School in Dorset, all of which made us laugh. Here are three particularly clever entries from the bunch:

Dear Big D (aka Darius) 

Word has it that you and your bunch of little wusses that you call an army had to retreat and headed back East: you know that fight might just be a bit of a stand-still. You never know, you might just feel like you have a day when you arrive there. Also don’t get scared by those Athenians and all their other silly friends. Ooohhh I know we’re meant to be scared of you, we’re all meant to bow down to you and worship you, but you were too scared to even fight the Athenians: imagine – and you think you’re the god – think twice about it, you can’t even destroy a tiny fighting force of 11,000. What a useless little leader you are! And you think you deserve respect.  

Sorry not sorry about the attacks from the tribes on you that probably set up your 3 year old temper off.  You act like my 3 year old brother when something doesn’t go his way, even with your supposed ‘strongest army on Earth’ – you couldn’t defeat the irrelevant little Athenians. Just pull it together. 

From an actual good leader. 

(H.H., aged 12)

Dear King Leonidas 

Please can I be the first to question why you are such wimps? You are meant to be the ‘big and almighty Spartans’, and you won’t come up to Marathon. This moon will come around again and again! So, what are you doing anyway? Just some sport? Look at our friend Pheidippides: he’s an alright runner, at the moment anyway.  This battle will be an easy win for you guys, and then you can add it to your long list of wins. After all of that fighting I think you deserve a little vacation up north to Marathon: how exciting? Yes there might be an army of Persians and their empire is like 10 times bigger than Greece: however just sit back and relax – you’re the Spartans warriors – without trying you’ll be fine, and that moon thing – oh it can wait.  

But then again –  now when I’m writing to you I’m slowly remembering that you are a bit arrogant and aren’t very helpful in times like these. It seems you only help us once a blue moon! So why don’t you change that view that the rest of Greece have on you and join us! 

Your sincerely  


(H.T., aged 12)


I heard you’re skipping off to ask the Spartans to join the fight. In my honest opinion, don’t waste your breath! They’ll just get a lazy excuse not to go. They do have one of the greatest armies that I’ve ever known but for them just to say no you are running  a very long way.  

You’ll be running back and forth from Athens to Sparta and then back past Athens to Marathon and realise that the Greeks won… So the whole run to Sparta would be a waste of time. And then you’ll run back to Athens to tell them about the victory. All in one day! That’s a bit intense if I’m brutally honest. The Spartans will look bad for the next 2000 years but that’s their fault! 

Not to sound rude but in the near future no-one will remember everything you did: if you’re lucky you might be mentioned in a Year 8 Latin lesson. Also you probably won’t be trendy or be famous. All you did was run 20 miles. I wish phones existed in your time: then you wouldn’t have died – 

oops – spoiler alert – never mind! Make sure you don’t run out of breath or hyperventilate. That wouldn’t be good.  

Rest your feet and relax: there is no point in going to Sparta, they won’t go – they’re probably partying real hard right now, for one of their very many weird festivals. 

Have fun, Toodles Pheidippides! 

From Myrine  

(M.M., aged 12)

And we will add just one more entry, which went to the trouble of working up its own pictorial advert!

The Best For You!  

Dear Achilles, 

Hey you! Yes YOU! The great Greek hero, the Unbeatable One!  

Me, being an Oracle, I know your fate. It ain’t a good one. You had a Trojan War coming up, and when you fought in it… You found your weak spot. The Heel. The Achilles Heel. An arrow shot at that weak spot = Dead Achilles. You will get a part in Homer’s poem, plus, you will get a tendon named after you. Good? But anyone’s weak spot will be Achilles’s Heel. Sucks, I know. Which is why we created the IA Airchilles (dope name, I know 😎.) Just like today’s trendy AirMaxes, but with Adamantine plating on both heels of the shoes. The fabric is made using Clotho’s Cloth©, which shall twist your fate so that you will never trip, fall in mud or step in dog poop. The soles are made from an interwoven fabric consisting of stretched rubber, obsidian, and Damascus steel. Like the AirMax shoes, it has a bubble in the sole, but this one has a feather from Hermes’s Balenciagas (he got a fresh look with Aphrodite’s suggestions) to enhance jump boost. Now that were some BIG facts that should have already made you buy them. BUT EVEN MORE reasons to buy them: 

  • For your health 
  • For your reputation 
  • For efficiency 
  • For comfort 
  • So much more… 

Well, buy them now at our shop ImmortalAttire.god 

Have a godly (shopping!) day! 

(Suban Ismailov, aged 12)

Really splendid efforts from one and all. Thanks for giving the contest a go. We hope to see many of you for our next competition, in January!

Oh, and Tristan Franklinos won the books



1 OK, not ‘strict’ sensu stricto, as we didn’t stipulate whether email titles, or salutations, or sign-offs, or dashes, or emojis, or all sorts of other things actually counted, so in the we more leniently counted the main body of the message with a 10% error margin…