By Vasilis Papoutsis
IRVINE, CA – Dr. Monica Cyrino is a Professor of Classics at the University of New Mexico and her academic research centers on the erotic in Ancient Greek poetry.
While visiting the University of California Irvine to give a lecture, she spoke with The National Herald.
Prof. Cyrino said she fell in love with Ancient Greek poetry in her first year in college and decided to focus her academic studies on the Greek Classics. A prolific writer and a consultant on numerous film and television productions, Cyrino’s first book was In Pandora’s Jar: Lovesickness in Early Greek Poetry(1995). In Greek mythology Pandora, just like Eve, was the first woman on Earth. Zeus had ordered her creation as a punishment to the human race, after Prometheus stole fire from the gods.
“Pandora is the tool of the gods,” she said, about the story’s premise. Women bring beauty, love and most importantly life on Earth. But they also brought mortality, and the unleashing of the evils from Pandora’s jar. ”Mortality is the price to pay for all the beauty and love we experience.” We have “highs and lows, no one gets a flatline anymore.”
And yet Elpis, Hope, remained in the jar, ”and we don’t know why but, hope gives life a meaning.”
Her book Aphrodite (2010) examines the importance of the Greek goddess of love for the Ancient Greeks as well as her enduring influence as a symbol of beauty and sexuality in contemporary culture. She said ”love comes from the outside, it attacks and takes you over,” it is a ”physical imposition from the outside and while it is very pleasurable it is also very painful. “When you are in love you are compromised, you are invaded. You are always aware of the presence of someone else.” The book offers new insights into the ancient texts. She also is the author of a popular text book, A Journey through Greek Mythology(2008). Explaining the origin of the book she said, ”I did not agree with some of the interpretations on the textbooks offered and I decided to write one with my own interpretations. I did not included any pictures on it to keep the cost down. Textbooks have gotten so expensive.” She has been awarded the American Philological Association’s Excellence in Teaching Classics award (1999).
Her book Big Screen Rome(2005) surveys several films on ancient Rome. She followed that with two volumes on the HBO series Rome, Season One and Two. The reception for her film books was enthusiastic and the demand for her services has increased since they were published. She is asked to coach, translate, and consult on a regular basis now.
At her lecture at UC Irvine titled ”The Bible Epic as Action Movie: ‘Maximal Projections’ in Noah (2014) & Exodus (2014).” In her presentation, she explained that both these movies were produced and marketed as epic style action movies rather than movies with religious overtones. She also compared two movies, Gladiator and Exodus. The storylines and characters are almost identical, a successful commercial cinematic formula.
Over the years, Cyrino has led student tours to Greece both in Peloponnese and Northern Greece. About the current Greek crisis, she says “The European Union should act more like the United States of America. When states are in financial trouble in the United States the federal government would support those states. Germany’s financial policies were not fair to the Greek government.”
As she continues to lecture around the country, Dr. Cyrino is currently working on a new book about the Spartacus series, due out soon.