Mastermind Club

Quiz 2023

Number 15

Subject : Classical Alleyways (and a few dead ends)

Set by Maya Davis


1/ Why might a Roman legion use a wild ass?

In sieges. The onager, named for a species of wild ass with a vicious kick, was a type of giant catapult used to hurl stones at or over walls.

2/ Which nymph fell madly in love with Narcissus and wasted away because she couldn’t tell him? Because of a previous curse, all she could do was repeat what he said. 


3/ Why was the speakers’ platformin the Roman forum called the Rostra?

When Roman ships captured an enemy ship, they would take the ‘rostrum’ -a metal covered point on the front of the ship- as a trophy and display it there.

4/ And what was the original function or purpose of the rostrum?

To punch a hole in the side of an enemy ship at or just below the waterline

5/ The Greek goddess Aphrodite was often associated with sparrows. Why?

She represented promiscuous sex and sparrows were believed to be promiscuous

6/ What were the main ingredients of the Roman drink called ‘mulsum’?

Wine, honey and water

7/ What creature appeared on all Athenian coinage from about 540 BCE onwards? 

An Owl

8/ Theplay Menaechmi (The Menaechmus Brothers) by the Roman playwright Plautus is the basis of which of Shakespeare’s plays?

The Comedy of Errors

9/ What item of ancient Persian dress did the ancient Greeks regard as effeminate?


10/ Which Greek god’s main oracle was at Dodana?


11/ Which dead creature killed Heracles/Hercules?

The centaur Nessus, through a robe soaked in his poisonous blood.

12/ Which Roman emperor ordered his former tutor to commit suicide after the failure of the Pisonian conspiracy? The tutor’s death was the subject of a famous painting by Jacques-Louis David.


13/ Achilles was famously killed by an arrow which pierced his heel – but who fired the arrow?


14/ In Virgil’s Aeneid, what was the name of Aeneas’ first wife, who died at Troy?


15/ For what would a Greek woman use the type of pottery article called an epinetron? 

Protecting her thigh while preparing wool.

16/Which work of Roman literature features two teachers of rhetoric called Agamemnon and Menelaus and a story about a werewolf? 

Satyricon by Petronius

17/ What is the modern name of the French seaside town whose original Greek name was ‘the city opposite’ because of its position in relation to an earlier city founded by the Greeks?

Antibes – originally ‘Antipolis’ because it is on the opposite side of the bay from Nicaea – now Nice

18/In Greek mythology, what was the cause of death of Orpheus’ wife Eurydice?

She was bitten by a snake

19/ And in which Greek play do we meet Creons’ wife Eurydice, who kills herself?

Antigone by Sophocles

20/ What was the original nationality of Spartacus?


21/ Spartacus and his fellow rebel-gladiators all trained at the main gladiator training school in which city in Italy?


22/ ‘Owls to Athens’ is the Greek equivalent of which English phrase also featuring the name of a city?

‘Coals to Newcastle’

23/ The Greek god Zeus was famous for the various disguises he adopted to have sex with mortal women and minor goddesses. What disguise did he adopt when he had sex with Alcmene? The resulting child was Heracles.

Alcmene’s husband Amphitryon

24/ which Roman Emperor was the first to be officially portrayed with a beard?


25/ After Alexander the Great’s death, his empire collapsed. Which of his generals took control of Egypt and founded a ruling dynasty which was overthrown in 31 BC? 

Ptolemy – whose ruling dynasty ended with the suicide of Cleopatra.