Campus Savors Suovetaurilia

by Steve Charles

April 24, 2014

The Greco-Roman feast celebrated Saturday at Goodrich Ballpark might have seemed an unlikely intermission between the two Little Giant baseball games, but it turned out to be a big crowd pleaser.

Associate Professor of Classics Jeremy Hartnett was not surprised. His department had invited the Wabash community to “Wabash's first ever Suovetaurilia,” a tasty re-enactment of an ancient Greco-Roman ritual involving the consumption of a pig, sheep, and bull. Students and professors from five Classics courses produced the event, along with Eta Sigma Phi, the Classics club. 

“You’ll learn about Greco-Roman religion through all of your senses,” Hartnett had promised in his invitation. “You’ll hear Greek prayers. Watch a re-enactment of a traditional sacrifice. Taste the grilled pork, lamb, and beef, as well as a number of other dishes cooked by Wabash students from ancient Greek and Roman recipes.

“In other words, there will be a short program, then we all dig into the tasty grub.”

And so they did—nearly 250 guests attended Saturday's feast!

Wabash Classics professors and their students had envisioned the event after realizing that many of the Classics courses being taught spring semester focused on ancient food, drink, religion, and epic.

"We wanted to find a way to draw the classes together in a joint project,” Hartnett said. “Although we are separated from the classical world by many centuries and miles, we take every opportunity in Wabash Classics to shrink that gap by experiencing the past with as many of our senses as possible. Creating a project like the suovetaurilia gave us the chance to experience the ancient world directly in watching a sacrifice and eating the food, yes, but also in having a hand in the work that went into such a production. And it was our pleasure to share this experience with the whole Wabash community.”

"In fact, one of the most enjoyable parts was including the students in our department meetings for about a month as they helped plan and pull off the event. Jim Blaich ’14, as president of Eta Sigma Phi, was instrumental in getting funding, helping the planning, securing the lamb, doing the other shopping, butchering the meat at our house on Friday night, and cooking it over the course of Saturday. He and I had been in class together before, and I even took him on an immersion trip, but this felt like a real partnership, and I'm so pleased to have that kind of relationship with our students: with him, with Matt Binder, and now also with Dylan Mayer, who was a stalwart in the butchering and cooking."

But what did any of this have to do with baseball?

"Though the combination of a baseball game and a religious event might seem strange to us today, we must remember that at the original Olympics, athletics and worship of the gods were inseparable,” Hartnett said. “Not only was there a stadium at Olympia, but there were also 212 altars.

“We hope that everyone at Saturday's event learned something about Greco-Roman religion, and we also hope they went home with full stomachs, smoky clothes, and also some lingering questions about how different the ancient world is from our own.”

Read more about preparations for the event at sophomore Matthew Binder’s Classics blog:

And here's a video of the event produced by Luke Walker ’15 and the College's Media Center:


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