Boston University students breathed new life into ancient Greek and Roman academic oratory competitions -- renewing traditions of the ancient past.
Nearly 30 students and faculty members met to participate in the fourth annual Agon, an ancient Greek and Latin declamation contest sponsored by the Undergraduate Classics Association in the College of Arts and Sciences last night.
"People are always saying Greek and Latin are dead languages, but this is a way to revive it," UCA Treasurer Caitlin Cox, a CAS sophomore, said. "It's 2008, and we're doing something that was done 2,000, 3,000 years ago. That's pretty amazing."
Agon annually provides a social aspect to the study of Greek and Latin literature and promotes a casual environment for students and professors to discuss all things ancient, Cox said.
Eight students and one professor took the stage, reciting passages from famous intellectuals -- from Virgil to Sappho -- competing for Barnes & Noble gift cards worth up to $20 and homemade Greek laurel wreaths.
"When you get a chance to do something like this, you just have to get up there and do it," said CAS senior Dygo Tosa, who has attended and performed at the Agon every Spring since its 2004 premiere.
Agon, the brainchild of a former classics student, hosts ambitious students and professors every year, CAS classical studies professor Stephen Scully said. Performances range from the dramatic to the emphatic, drawing laughs and words of admiration from the attentive audience.
"The creme de la creme," classical studies professor Stephen Esposito said. "It's really a fun event where the students and professors can get together and celebrate the languages that we love."
While the judges deliberated the outcome of the contest, UCA President Peter George, a CAS senior, kicked off a brief an open-mike session, treating the audience to a modern Greek song.
"I'm very impressed that the students are doing this," classical studies professor Mark Alonge said. "The effort and the initiative that the students have taken to get classics outside of the classroom is great."
"One of the great things about coming to BU is how enthusiastic the students are," Alonge continued. "It's not just a class; it's a community."
Toward the end of the evening, classical studies visiting professor Frank Nisetich did a reading from Tacitus, to resounding applause. Nisetich translated the piece himself and recited the passages entirely from memory.
While UCA is a little-known organization outside of the classics department, many students said they would be interested in joining after attending the contest and seeing the spirit of the ancients alive and well.
"Any and all participation is great," Cox said.