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Michael Fontaine

Professor and Associate Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education

Goldwin Smith Hall, Room 121
439 Day Hall

Educational Background




Latin Literature, Classics, ancient Rome, ancient Comedy, Plautus, Terence, jokes, puns, wine, Virgil, neo-Latin


  • Classics

Graduate Fields

  • Classics


Beyond Cornell, I'm an advisory board member of The Paideia Institute. I'm a big proponent of teaching Latin as an active, living (spoken) language (see here), which is how I learned it.

I regularly consult on Latin for museums, institutions, dealers, and collectors. I've exposed forgery in Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age paintings, discovered the forgotten provenance of a major manuscript, and I interpret manuscripts, books, maps, and engravings of all kinds. Please email me if you need help.

In 2016 I received the Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties.



    For a complete list, click here. Book reviews are here.

    New Books

    1. In progress. How to Drink: A Classical Guide to the Art of Imbibing. Princeton University Press. (A translation and edition of Vincent Obsopoeus’ 1537 De Arte Bibendi).

    2. 2018. (co-ed.) Quasi Labor Intus: Ambiguity in the Latin Language (Essays in Honor of Fr. Reginald Foster, OCD) (co-ed. with Charles McNamara and William Short). Paideia Institute Press.

    Lumine decipiens noctem φωστῆρα vocabant
          Christicolae signum, nomen et omen erat.
    Namque ut nocte regit tenebrisque per aequora cursum
          sideribus fixis nauta vagante rate,
    fidum dum regimen balbi per opaca rogamus,
          haud aliter φωστὴρ hic Reginaldus erat.

    Recent Articles:

    (in press). 'The Myth of Ovid's Exile.' Electryone (in English, and will appear elsewhere in Chinese translation.)

    (in press). ‘Before Pussy Riot: Free Speech and Censorship in the Age of Plautus.’ (On Sotades as the "barbarian poet" in Miles Gloriosus)

    2018. 'A Cute Illness in Epidaurus: Eight sick jokes in Plautus' Gorgylio (Curculio).' Quasi Labor Intus: Ambiguity in the Latin Language.

    2017. 'Schizophrenia, then and now: The Libation Bearers of Aeschylus.' Thomas S. Szasz: The Man and His Ideas.

    2017. ‘O Maravilhoso Mistério de Mater-Virgo de Joannes Burmeister.’ A comédia e seus duplos: o Anfitrião de Plauto. (English translation here)

    2017. 'Joachim Camerarius on Witches, Witchcraft, and Criminal Responsibility, Or, How to Philologize with a Witches' Hammer.' Camerarius Polyhistor.

    2016. 'What Rome Can Teach Us Today: Ancient Lessons for Modern Politics.' Foreign Affairs.

    2016. 'Reconsidering Some Plautine Elements in Plautus (Amphitryo 303-7, Captivi 80-4).' Classical Journal.

    2016. 'Is the Story of Susanna and the Elders based on a Greek New Comedy? The Evidence of Plautus' Casina and Burmeister's Susanna.'  Roman Drama and its Contexts.

    2016. 'Freudian Bullseyes in Classical Perspective--The Psycholinguistics of Guilt in Virgil's Aeneid.' Wordplay and Powerplay in Latin Poetry.

    2016. 'Schizophrenia in The Golden Ass.' Electryone &


    Recent or upcoming talks (click here for details):

    • "Camerarius Camelarius: A New Salt Road to the Modern World."
    • "From Democracy to Authoritarianism: The Death of the Roman Republic."
    • "Psychiatry in the Sistine Chapel."
    • "Title IX Problems: Rape and Responsibility at UVA and classical Athens."