Greeks, Romans, and Pilgrims

Classical Receptions in Early New England


In Greeks, Romans, and Pilgrims David Lupher examines the availability, circulation, and uses of Greek and Roman culture in the earliest period of the British settlement of New England. This book offers the first systematic correction to the dominant assumption that the Separatist settlers of Plymouth Plantation (the so-called “Pilgrims”) were hostile or indifferent to “humane learning”— a belief dating back to their cordial enemy, the May-pole reveler Thomas Morton of Ma-re Mount, whose own eccentric classical negotiations receive a chapter in this book. While there have been numerous studies of the uses of classical culture during the Revolutionary period of colonial North America, the first decades of settlement in New England have been neglected. Utilizing both familiar texts such as William Bradford’s Of Plimmoth Plantation and overlooked archival sources, Greeks, Romans, and Pilgrims signals the end of that neglect.

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David A. Lupher, Ph.D. (1970), Stanford University, is Professor of Classics Emeritus, University of Puget Sound. He is the author of Romans in a New World: Classical Models in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America (University of Michigan Press, 2003).

1 Classical Antiquity in Promotional Tracts for the Settlement of New England
 Captain John Smith: “For Example: Rome”
 Sir William Alexander and New Scotland
 The “Melancholly Leasures” of William Morrell
 The Model of Roman Colonization in John White’s Planters Plea (1630)
 The Old World and the New in William Wood’s Prospect (1634)

2 Thomas Morton of Ma-re Mount: The “Lady of Learning” versus “Elephants of Wit”
 “Mine Hoste of Ma-re Mount”
 Thomas Morton’s Classical Indians
 The Small Latin and Less Greek of Thomas Morton
 Morton and Classical Poetry
 Aristotle, Cicero, and Epictetus: Classical Prose Writers in New English Canaan
 Mine Host of Ma-re Mount as Fabius Cunctator and the Capitol Geese: Morton and Ancient History
 “Luscus” and Phaon’s Box: Morton and Classical Myth and Legend
 Morton the Poet vs. the Stygian Tapster and the Puritan Procrustes
 “New Englands Genius”: Leda the Swan [ sic] and the Druids
 “Carmen Elegiacum”: The Barren Doe of Virginia
 “Rise, Oedipeus”: The May-pole at Ma-re Mount
 “The Baccanall Triumphe of the Nine Worthies of New Canaan”
 Maia vs. Flora / Morton vs. Bradford

3 “Booke Learning Despised”? Access to “Humane Learning” in Plymouth Plantation
 A Pilgrim Book: The Wanderings of Elder Brewster’s Seneca
 Bodin’s Plato and a Renaissance Humanist’s Dog-Eating Spaniards: From Brewster’s Shelves to Bradford’s
 Greco-Roman Antiquity in Elder Brewster’s Library
 Greece and Rome in the Libraries of Captains Standish and Willett
 Pliny the Elder and Bradford’s Book Hunt in Duxbury (ca. 1647)
 “The Untimly and Strang Deaths of Many of the Heathen Poets, and Comedians”
 Bradford’s “Heathen Historians,” Ovid’s Tristia, and Guevara’s Marcus Aurelius: Classical “Ghosts” in Plymouth Plantation
 Access to Classical Culture in Gov. Bradford’s Plymouth

4 Landing with Seneca, Founding with Pliny, Exiled with Ovid: Governor William Bradford and the Classics
 Roman Stoics and the Pilgrim Venture: Cato at Utica, Seneca in the Bay of Naples
 Plato, Seneca, Pliny the Elder, and the End of the “Common Course and Condition”
 Bradford’s Plymouth and Ovid’s Tomis: Classics in Bradford’s Late Poetry and Notebooks
 Governor Bradford and the Classics


Note on the Citation of Editions of Bradford’s Of Plimmoth Plantation

 Primary Sources
 Secondary Sources
Anyone interested in the settlement of New England (especially Plymouth Colony), early colonial North American intellectual history, and the reception of Greek and Roman antiquity in the early modern period.