The ship of state is a common metaphor in the classical world. Probably first used by the elegiac poet Theognis,  it is often found in Aeschylus and used in mocking tones by Aristophanes. The Athenian philosopher Plato extends the metaphor to describe how the governance of the state is like that of a ship. Much later, the Roman poet Horace uses it about the Roman state. Its usage is found in sources as varied as the authors I’ve mentioned, just as we use it now.

The modern fascination with the ancient world permeates our culture. It is part of our frame of reference, our entertainment, from blockbuster swords-and-sandals epics to novels. I will steer this sea-worthy blog around the ancient ship of state, docking at assorted points of interest along the way.

I’m your gubernatrix, helmswoman. I’m a classicist and when I’m not sailing metaphorical boats, I’m teaching classics in secondary schools.

Theognidea I. 667-682, LOEB Greek Elegy and Iambus I

Plato, Republic VI.488a-489b.

Horace, Carmina I.14.


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