COVID-19 and the Classics: The Fourth Antigone Competition

What would they say?

The winner, along with many splendid runners-up, can now be read here!

As January swings round, and the seasons keep rolling on as they do, we realise we must announce the Fourth Antigone Competition. In the past we’ve asked you to unleash the poet within, to channel your artistic talents, and to discover your bureaucratic alter-ego. It’s something more literary this time round – and on a topic that has affected all of us materially and in so many complex ways.

We invite readers to reflect – if you can bear it! – on the Covid-19 pandemic that has transformed the world over these last two years. The challenge is for you to respond to any aspect of the global misery, chaos and surrealism in the style of a Greek or Roman author. You can take any angle you like, poetic or prosaic, passionate or plodding, pessimistic or optimistic melioristic.

How, for instance, would Homer sing of the world’s recent woes? What health advice might Hesiod have to dispense in earnest? What would Cicero harangue the folks of Falkirk Forum about? What tone would Virgil’s Coviad end up striking, if only it had survived? What would Sophocles’ Oedipus say to reassure the Thebans? How would Thucydides or Tacitus critique the political bungling or corporate dilly-dallying of the elect and elite? What would Lucretius make of the waves of public panic? What would Marcus Aurelius or Augustine offer to reassure us? Would Aristotle, Galen or even Pliny the Elder, have an idiosyncratic explanation for what is going on? Would Lucian or Petronius find some absurdity in the misery? And what on earth would emanate in anger from the pens of Persius or Juvenal?

It may be a fragment from a lost work, or it may be a self-contained poem/letter/miscellaneous reflection. It’s entirely up to you to determine how familiar or alien the ancient figure you choose to resurrect finds the year 2022 on which they reflect. Entries are to be submitted in English, alas (although we will by no means stop you from submitting Latin or Greek to accompany it!). More importantly this time round, they should be limited to two paragraphs of text, not exceeding 500 words in total. The winner will best recreate the character, tone and peculiarities of the writer in question.

The competition is open to anyone, anywhere in the world. So, if inspiration strikes you, please ping over your entry, along with your name and home city, and of course the name of the author imitated, to us at The deadline comes with the end of play on 31 January 2022. You can enter as many times as you like, just as we will publish as many runners-up that catch the real spirits of the authors imitated.

There’s just the one prize this time round (we spent too much on our families this Christmas): £250 for the winner.

Good luck!