I would like to share one story which encapsulates my favorite parts of university life.

During my runs this winter, I found the BBC archives to be a fascinating and informative distraction. One winter day, while running in a snowy park near the university, I was struck by a certain interview with the early 20th century writer and poet Robert Graves. “There is a word,” Graves said, “the Greeks would have used to describe me. You see, while I was fighting in the war (WWI) they thought I died. My return, very much alive, was quite a shock to my family. To the romans, such people were called… what was it?… ah, yes…Deutripotnoi, that’s it! They were thought to have lost their souls, and for this reason they were barred from the temples.” These were not Grave's exact words, of course, but they sent me on a journey. First to my dorm, where, even with google translate, I could not speak ancient Greek. I formulated some theories, but I could not figure out the word. Each syllable had a meaning I thought, finding, “Duo” meant twice, “pot” meant dead, and “noi” meant one who. “Twice dead one” almost fits, but what about the other syllable, “tri”? I ran directly to the foreign language building to search for someone hosting office hours. Unfortunately, there was a blizzard forecasted for that evening, and the professors had all returned home. Luckily, I was able to stop a passerby in the hallway, and he led me to a room of classics graduate students who were working despite the weather. One of them, Vaughn, looked up from his notes, eyes glazed over from reading, and listened with a quizzical look as I explained my predicament. His eyes cleared and a grin spread across his face.

“I do not know the word you are talking about, but I can certainly help you look for it. There is a set of dictionaries of ancient Greek over there, we can look through those.” And so began our adventure. We spent hours hypothesizing, searching, reading, cross referencing, and starting over again. Perhaps Graves was mistaken, perhaps this word did not exist. While we worked, another student walked up, chewing on some kind of bread. “Vaughn, I couldn’t help but overhear. I think I know what dictionary we should check.” He pulled up a database portal on his phone, squinting at the old website which clearly predated the smartphone. We went back to work, and, about thirty minutes later, we had it! It was a reference to Plutarch’s 5th Roman question.

“Romans? I thought you were talking about Greeks?” I hear you say. As it turns out, Plutarch was referencing the Greek customs, and this is the only use of this word in all known ancient literature. Just at that moment, another grad student game running in. She had heard of our investigation, and was very excited to help. She was completely crestfallen when she learned she had missed the moment of discovery. Nevertheless, with congratulations all around, we headed home, eager to make it back before the blizzard. The grad students thanked me for telling them about it, because none of the three had heard of the storm.

I made it home safe.