The Institute of Classical Studies
Sharing and promoting research in Classics.
ICS Publications Manager Dr. Liz Potter shares news of recent publications connected to the long-running Mycenaean Seminar.
At the ICS we’ve recently been celebrating the long history of the Mycenaean Seminar. We’ve made a virtual issue of The Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies (BICS) available via our journal homepage: this provides free access to papers on Mycenaean topics which have appeared in the journal from the 1950s to the 2000s. And in a new development, we’ve also rejuvenated the publication of The BICS Mycenaean Seminar, making it a separate annual publication on the Humanities Digital Library. This is an Open Access publishing platform developed by the School of Advanced Study: all material is free to download. Three of the nine Institutes of the School currently have Open Access publications on the platform: ourselves, the Institute of Historical Research and the Institute of Advanced Legal Study.
The BICS Mycenaean Seminar
The Mycenaean Seminar series has been convened by the Institute of Classical Studies since the 1950s. It’s still going strong: the seminar series for 2017-18 is half way through its cycle, and the next lecture is on 21 February, and is sponsored by the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP).
In its early stages, the seminars focused largely on the exciting new research enabled by the decipherment of Linear B. The series now covers Aegean Prehistory in general, and is well attended by subject specialists from across the world.
The summaries of the seminars have been published as part of BICS since 1963. Put end to end, the summaries provide a rich resource for Aegean Prehistory, and often provide the only citable instance of new research projects, until full archaeological publication becomes possible.
Starting with the 2015-16 series, the Mycenaean summaries are being published separately online. They retain their original character and their close connection with BICS, and become far more widely available as Open Access publications via the Humanities Digital Library. Click these links to read The BICS Mycenaean Seminar 2015-16 and The BICS Mycenaean Seminar 2016-17.
Virtual Issue on Mycenaean Studies
Our Virtual Issue on Mycenaean Studies on the BICS website is introduced by Andrew Shapland, Chair of the Mycenaean Studies Advisory Committee. All items in the virtual issue are free to access for everyone.
Among other things, the issue contains a complete list of all the Mycenaean Seminars which have been run at the ICS since 1954. There are articles by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick from the 1950s, which showcase research on Linear B. There are also more recent papers on a range of themes in Mycenaean and Minoan studies, by J. T. Killen, Nicoletta Momigliano, Peter Warren, Sp. Iakovidis, A. Dakouri-Hild, Susan Sherratt and Cynthia W. Shelmerdine. A final paper by John Bennet provides a useful retrospective, looking back at ‘60+ years of ‘reading’ the Aegean Late Bronze Age’.
There are also links via the virtual issue to all papers given at the Mycenaean Seminar which were subsequently written up in BICS; these are available in their entirety to BICS subscribers.
We hope these publications will prove accessible and useful for all.
by Liz Potter
Dr. Diana Burton, (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) shares her thoughts on her time as Visiting Fellow at the ICS.
Last year I had the pleasure of being a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies for three months, to further my research on Hades.
I first became acquainted with the Institute when I was a doctoral student at UCL. At that time, the Library was still housed in Gordon Square, and was a rabbit warren of tall narrow stacks with the occasional desk tucked into odd corners. Those who worked in it at that time will remember with both fondness and frustration the old catalogue system, which consisted of slips of paper pasted into huge guard-books. I had never worked in any library quite like it, and I loved it from the moment I first set foot in it.
I still love it. The current space has, shall we say, a bit less character than the old one (that’s a good thing, particularly in the case of the catalogue), but it’s a lovely place to work, and houses a wonderful collection, with pretty much everything I want on its shelves (I feel a mild sense of triumph in actually identifying an item they don’t have, since it almost never happens). And, as Robert Fowler notes in an earlier post, the librarians are wonderful! My research on Hades encompasses all aspects of the god down to the fourth century BC, and it took me literally from one end of the Library to the other, from the texts and commentaries near the entrance, detouring into the inscriptions, thence to the art and archeology sections in the main room, and into Greek religion down near the far end. My plan for this leave was to focus on Attic vase-painting, but I was sidetracked into the relationship between Zeus and Hades in Greek tragedy, and from that to the role and function of Zeus Chthonios (about whom we know very little) and his relationship to Hades/Plouton. There is an interesting and, on the face of it, unexpected affinity between Hades, the lord of the dead, and Zeus, the lord of pretty much everything else. In tragedy, this link is often focused around justice and retribution; the Erinyes act as the binding agent between the two gods, since they ‘belong’ to Hades, but their role as affiliates them with Zeus, and it is not always clear which of the two is setting them in motion.
One of the pleasures of working in the Library is the smorgasboard of seminars and lectures, and the opportunity to encounter friends and colleagues. As well as chance encounters among the periodicals, I gave a talk in the ICS Lunchtime Seminars during my last week in London (a slightly hectic week in which I delivered three papers in three cities in three days). As always at the Institute, I learnt a great deal from everyone who was present; I slightly regret that it was my last week, and I didn’t have time to follow up the suggestions offered. I’m now back in Wellington, pestering the interloan service and regretting the temporary closure of the floor of the library here which I use most often. I will certainly be back.
by Diana Burton
Details of the ICS Visiting Fellows scheme for scholars based at universities in the UK and abroad are available here.
This week we invited Professor Robert Fowler to share news of the ongoing campaign to raise funds for the Hellenic and Roman Library (HARL).
HARL is the Hellenic and Roman Library: the part of the Institute Library contributed by the Hellenic and Roman Societies. Those two organisations had already built up superb libraries since their foundation in 1879 and 1910 respectively, but when they joined with the University of London in 1953 in the new Institute of Classical Studies, the result was a truly world-leading collection. And it gets better all the time. There are now over 150,000 volumes including an important Rare Books section, and 22,000 bound volumes of periodicals. We subscribe to some 700 titles, and add 3000 new books every year. That these are all available on open shelves is one of the most attractive features of the Library. Increasingly, physical holdings are supplemented by electronic and digitised resources. Add the wonderful librarians, and you have the perfect library experience.
It’s the result of sustained effort for well over a century. There were times when it could have turned out quite differently. Certainly when the Hellenic Society decided to purchase its single bookcase in 1880, it could hardly have foreseen where it would all lead. One clever stratagem adopted by both Societies was to exploit the success and prestige of their two journals, Journal of Hellenic Studies (JHS) and Journal of Roman Studies (JRS), both of which receive many books gratis from publishers anxious to have their books reviewed in such prominent places. Normally in our game, reviewers get to keep the book: it’s the only tangible compensation for their labour. Uniquely, JHS and JRS and Britannia ask reviewers to return the book after writing the review for deposit in the Library. It is a mark of the standing of the journals, and the Library, that scholars have always been willing to do that. Thus the Library acquires a handsome stock of free books every year. Another ploy is to exchange copies of the journals for copies of other journals published by similar, non-profit organisations.
When the Combined Library – HARL plus the University – was created, the University was able to provide journals and reference works, as well as books and other materials. A coordinated effort began to address gaps in the collection, finding the best editions of classical authors, and filling the breaks in periodical series, including those due to the war years. Holdings in archaeology, history, epigraphy and papyrology were strengthened. A joint management structure ensured that the acquisitions policy was kept up to date and fit for purpose, and that the right books were purchased every year. Wise advice from generations of committee members and librarians has produced the riches that readers now find everywhere within easy reach.
The Societies have recently signed a new 25-year agreement with the University, which is a sign of the firm commitment of all parties to the maintenance of this splendid partnership. The costs have been rising, though, and the Societies are now facing annual deficits to keep up their end. By the end of the agreement, if not before, they will have exhausted their reserves. So we have launched a Campaign, with the aim not only of preserving the status quo, but of enhancing and improving the facilities for readers, including remote users. In working towards these objectives, we enjoy the unstinting support of Greg Woolf, the Institute Director, and all his staff. Together we want to make the Library a global information hub for what’s happening in Classic and Ancient History, and a portal to resources of all kinds. We also want to find more funds to assist users, especially students, to travel to the Library and explore its wealth first-hand. Wonderful though digital resources are, nothing quite replaces the experience of browsing the shelves.
You can find out about the many ways you can contribute to the Campaign by visiting HARL’s website here. Apart from donations, large or small, you can also attend events, introduce friends, and spread the word for us on social media. Please help us to preserve and enhance the future of a great Library.
by Robert Fowler
On Wednesday 24th January 2018, the ICS hosted the first Dorothy Tarrant Lecture, which was delivered by Prof. Anthony Corbeill (University of Virginia), 2017-18 Dorothy Tarrant Fellow at the Institute. This newly-inaugurated visiting fellowship for scholars from outside the UK was set up to commemorate the contribution of a pioneering figure in UK Classics; the holders (of whom there are two this academic year, with Prof. Joshua Katz of Princeton joining us later in 2018) spend a minimum of six weeks conducting their research at the Institute and deliver the named lecture.
Dorothy Tarrant (1885-1973), was the first woman to be appointed as Professor of Greek in the UK – in 1936 she became head of department and Professor at Bedford College, part of the University of London. Much of her scholarship focused on Plato, with her best known work being her 1928 publication, The Hippias Major Attributed to Plato; she was also president of the Hellenic Society from 1953-1956. Along with other leading women classicists Tarrant has recently been the focus of an initiative by the Women’s Classical Committee (UK) to increase the visibility of women scholars on Wikipedia. This new fellowship named in Tarrant’s honour also comes at a particularly fitting time, as 2018 marks 150 years since women were first admitted to sit exams by the University of London; the University is marking this anniversary with a whole series of events connected to its Leading Women campaign celebrating the contribution of women to the University.
Prof. Corbeill’s lecture, entitled ‘Earthquakes, Etruscan Priests, and Roman Politics in the Age of Cicero’, gave an insight into his current research as he prepares, with Andrew Riggsby (University of Texas at Austin) a new commentary on Cicero’s De Haruspicum Responsis, a text which offers a unique insight into the process of interpreting a prodigium (‘prodigy’ or ‘omen’) at Rome – in this case, the earth tremors which were heard near Rome in 56 BCE.
The ICS and Futurefire.net (FFN), an independent publisher of speculative fiction, are embarking on an innovative partnership to publish a new volume entitled Making Monsters later this year. The book, which is aimed primarily at an audience of non-specialists, will combine a series of articles written by scholars with an anthology of new short stories and poems inspired by ancient monsters (including those from Greco-Roman mythology, the Near East, ancient Egypt, or any other ancient world cultures). We recently put out an open call for contributions from writers of fiction and poetry. In keeping with the editorial policy of our partners at FFN, we’re particularly interested in commissioning pieces which explore the marginality and transgressive nature of monsters, particularly in relation to gender issues, sexuality, race or disability. If you’re interested in contributing a piece you can read more and find out how to submit your work here.
The idea for the volume stemmed from a recent public event, ‘Why do we need monsters?’ hosted by the ICS; two of the speakers who presented at that event, Liz Gloyn (Royal Holloway) and Valeria Vitale (ICS), will each contribute a short essay. Liz’s piece focuses on classical monsters in the modern world (particularly in films and television), and Valeria will talk about using 3D technology to create new hybrid creatures. Their essays will be joined by four other contributions. Maria Anastasiadou (University of Heidelberg) will share with us some of her research into Aegean iconographic representation of Gorgos and Minotaurs. Margrét Helgadóttir will give an insight into monsters of the world based on her expert knowledge of monsters from a whole range of different cultures (we recommend taking a look at the Books of Monsters, published by Fox Spirit Books, of which Margrét is series editor). Meanwhile Annegret Märten (King’s College London) will share elements of their research on the ways in which monsters are visualised, and Hannah Silverblank (Haverford College) will talk about intersections between concepts of monstrosity and human physical difference or disability. These authors will also have the opportunity to respond in their pieces to the new works of fiction and poetry which will sit alongside their essays, and an afterword reflecting on both the essays and the creative pieces will be written by Mathilde Skoie (Oslo). Bringing academics and creative writers into conversation with one another is a great way of planting new ideas and informing future thinking; we hope too that the combination of fiction and non-fiction will also appeal to audiences who may not previously have engaged with scholarship in this field.
We’re also delighted to be able to share with you a sneak preview of the cover art for the volume. Artist Robin Kaplan, also known as The Gorgonist, has given permission for us to use her glorious image ‘The Lonely Gorgon’ (pictured above) on the jacket.
We’ll share more news about Making Monsters here on the ICS blog in due course, so keep an eye on our page if you’re interested in seeing how the project develops. Meanwhile, if you’d like to create your own monster masterpiece, Valeria Vitale has produced a monster-themed colouring book, Colouring Monsters, which you can download and print for free or purchase as hard copy here. We also tweet about the theme via the hashtag #ICSMonsters, so drop in and share your favourite ancient monsters (or your colouring creations!) with us on Twitter.
by Emma Bridges
(This post is loosely based on a short presentation I gave in the lunchtime public engagement workshop “Classics and History in 3D” at the Being Human Festival here in Senate House on November 22 last year.)
For this exercise, I wanted to walk through the process of taking a Greek vase (in this case a miniature kylix from the Ehrenberg bequest in the ICS/Hellenic and Roman Library), scanning it as a digital 3D file, cleaning up the scanned image, and printing it again using the Institute’s CraftBot 2 3D printer, bought last year as part of a package of 3D kit for experimenting, learning and teaching purposes.
I started by choosing the small kylix, both because it is a relatively simple shape, the inside is visible (making a clean scan and a print possible), and its small size should make a fairly quick print (although more on that later!). I imaged the kylix using a scanning technique called photogrammetry, which is both easy and cheap: the only hardware needed is an entry-level camera—my three year-old cellphone was more than adequate—and there is free software available for processing the images into a 3D model (although we used Agisoft Photoscan, which costs $59 for an academic license).
Photogrammetry works basically by taking a series of photographs of an object from every possible angle. It is important for light and position to be completely consistent between the photographs, and it helps to have an irregular background (such as an illustrated page of newsprint) to help the software tell between similar-looking areas of a repetitive or symmetrical object. So long as each point on the surface of the object appears in at least two clear photographs, it should be possible to create a good model. I took about 120 shots to be on the safe side, and processed about 100 of them after removing out-of-focus or overexposed images.
Running photogrammetry software on the photographs takes anything from 5 minutes or so for a medium-quality 3D model, to up to several hours for the highest quality, using hundreds of high resolution images. Mine took about 10 minutes total, going through all the stages:
- Aligning images (which leaves you with a visualisation of the position from which each photograph was taken, like this one);
- Building the dense cloud (calculating from these images a series of points in 3D space on the surface of the object);
- Building the mesh (turning the surface of the calculated 3D geometry into a series of triangular faces);
- I skipped the fourth step, which would normally be to build the texture for the 3D object (i.e. use fragments of photographs to give each face of the model the appropriate colour and shade), because I only want this model to 3D print, and that doesn’t use colour or texture.
The next step was to edit the 3D model, in a piece of software like Meshmixer (currently free), to remove any extraneous pieces, such as part of the tabletop or other background objects, to smooth some of the edges, patch any holes in the image, and turn it into a “watertight” 3D solid, ready for printing. At this point I found it useful to artificially flatten both the base and top edge of the vase, by slicing off the irregular surface that was caused by the low quality of the 3D scan. This again makes it easier to extrude the model onto the flat bed of the 3D printer.
The final software I used to prepare the 3D object was CraftWare, the custom tool that comes with the CraftBot printer range. This is used to scale the object (I set its longest dimension to 107mm, the same as the original vase), to set the position and size of supports—which are needed for those parts of the object that overhang, and which could not be printed using additive layers with nothing beneath them. For a complex shape, such as this one with three areas of support columns, it also helps to print a “raft” beneath the whole object, to make it more stable and less likely to detach from the base mid-print. This is also the point to choose a print quality, ranging from lowest (which will take a little under two hours to print an object of this size and complexity), to the highest, which is slower and uses finer layers of filament, and can take upwards of four hours, even for this small vase. The object shown here was printed at the highest quality.
When printing the object, there are a few steps to keep in mind, including keeping the base plate clean and aligned to the extruder nozzle, which can help make a print more likely to succeed. When we first got the printer, our inexperience led to about one in three attempt prints to detach or fail in some other way. This seldom happens now that we know the precautions to take.
We ended the Being Human event with a short discussion of the obvious inadequacies of a 3D printed object (the weight, texture and colour and inaccurate; surface design is absent; it doesn’t have good tactile or haptic resemblance to an ancient vase; there are usually rough areas on the object—such as the underside and beneath the handles, in this case, where supports were printed and filed off).
The audience then offered some suggestions on advantages of the 3D object over the original artefact: we can hand them around a classroom without concern they might be damaged (I tossed one across the room for an audience member to catch, to prove this point); we can print multiple copies (I had three with me, not counting the two other, inferior copies I keep to show lessons we learned about printing); we can experience them in ways we cannot the original—I could pour water (or wine!) into a printed kylix and see how it feels as a drinking vessel; we could experiment with painting or otherwise decorating the object in the ancient style; we can reconstruct missing parts of an object, whether we know exactly how they would look, or have to guess.
I was pleasantly surprised by the richness of suggestions the audience came up with, and the enthusiasm they showed for even this modest example of 3D printed replicas of ancient artefacts.
The 3D printers and other scanning/modelling gear that the ICS and IHR purchased last year are here to encourage learning, experimenting and collaboration. If you have any ideas for using 3D technologies in researching, teaching, communication or engagement, please do get in touch, we’d love to talk it over with you.
by Gabriel Bodard
Dr. Victoria Leonard is a Research Associate at the Institute of Classical Studies. In this post she reflects on her recent research visit to the Hardt Foundation, Geneva.
In November 2017 I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Research Scholarship at the Hardt Foundation (Fondation Hardt) in Geneva, a unique institution that supports the study of Classical Antiquity. The Foundation houses an excellent library, and with its private grounds and other visiting researchers, it provides an ideal working environment. The Scholarship offered two precious weeks of uninterrupted research, with the principal task of progressing an article on late ancient material culture.
My article focuses on a collection of imperial standards dating to the early fourth century AD that were unearthed on the Palatine Hill in Rome in 2005. The excavation revealed a sceptre (fig. 1), three glass spheres, and seven spear- and lance-heads that had been wrapped in silk and linen, preserved in a leather bag and a wooden box, and carefully buried. The insignia have been interpreted as belonging to the emperor Maxentius, who ruled as emperor in the western Roman empire for six years (AD 306-12) (fig. 2). The mysterious interment of the standards has been rather spectacularly connected to Maxentius’ defeat and death at the hands of the emperor Constantine at the battle of Milvian Bridge in AD 312. Archaeologists have supposed that the standards were hidden before the battle for safe-keeping but never retrieved following Maxentius’ defeat. Imperial insignia were frequently represented on coins, art or relief sculptures (fig. 3), but these standards are exceptional as the only surviving example from antiquity. My research re-examines this important material evidence and considers the suppression and survival of memory within the dichotomy of imperial triumph and defeat in the early fourth century.
The Hardt Foundation was an ideal place to progress my project, which involved the study of sculpture, inscriptions, coins, and literature from archaic Greece to the late ancient western Mediterranean. The Foundation’s library offers a wide variety of resources in classical studies, ancient history, and archaeology. It has a fine collection of critical editions and translations, so chasing references to complete another article was a surprisingly pleasant task. Focusing on the Roman empress Galla Placidia (AD 388-450), this second article considers gender bias in ancient historiography and how the lack of critical recognition has shaped understandings of Placidia’s capture during the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in AD 410. Building upon a comparative and transhistorical approach to gender and violence within ancient warfare, my analysis seeks to find an alternative to conventional critical interpretations of Placidia’s historical role within the ancient evidence. Shifting the focus away from androcentric narratives and centralising Placidia’s experiences illuminates her lack of autonomy as a war-captive.
I am a founding member and steering committee member of the Women’s Classical Committee (UK), and it was serendipitous that Talitha Kearey, a WCC member and PhD student from the University of Cambridge, was also visiting the Foundation. With Katherine Harloe and Irene Salvo, Talitha is organising ‘LGBT+ Classics: Teaching, Research, and Activism’ to be held on 12th February 2018 at Reading University. She was also willing to be strong-armed into contributing to a WCC initiative to improve the representation of women classicists on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the largest and most influential source of information in the world, and yet it has a pronounced gender skew. Fewer than 15% of English-language Wikipedia editors are women, and only one in six of its 1.5 million biographies focus on women. This bias is particularly pronounced in the representation of classicists: an estimate in 2016 found that only 7% of biographies featured women.
The WCC has organised training sessions and monthly remote editing sessions to reverse this imbalance (see here). Talitha and I were able to participate in a remote editing session from the Foundation: new to Wikipedia editing, Talitha improved the pages on Averil Cameron and Philomen Probert, and I expanded the page on Dilys Powell (fig. 4). Powell had a long and notable career as a journalist and film critic, but she was also an important classicist, although this acknowledgement was absent from her Wikipedia page. Powell was only the second female President of the Classical Association (1966-7) despite being put off studying classics as an undergraduate. In her inaugural address she said, ‘When I was at Oxford, I wondered whether I should study classics. My brother said: Don’t – the Classics are a terrible grind for a girl and you will be prematurely wrinkled’. Like many of our foremothers in classics in the twentieth century Powell deserves to be better know, and her Wikipedia page has been expanded to include her contribution to classics as well as further details of her education and career. The WCC has created or edited more than seventy Wikipedia pages of women classicists, but there is more to do: we currently have 84 articles that need expanding, and 45 that need creating.
The opportunity to work in such tranquil settings enabled rapid research progress, and the buzz of academic interaction stimulated and inspired – mealtimes and breaks were opportunities to learn about other scholarly projects being pushed forward in the library, and offered exposure to French, Polish, Spanish and Italian around one table. I am grateful to the Hardt Foundation for supporting my research with such generous hospitality and expanding my intellectual and cultural horizons.
by Victoria Leonard
Editor’s note: You can read Victoria’s Times Higher Education article about the WCC UK Wikipedia initiative here, and you can find Victoria on Twitter @tigerlilyrocks. There’s more about Victoria and our other ICS Research Associates here.
Victoria’s stay at the Fondation Hardt was made possible by one of its Research Scholarships for Young Researchers: details of how to apply can be found on the Foundation’s website.
Dr. Susan Dunning, of the University of Toronto, has been at the Institute of Classical Studies as a Visiting Fellow from July to December 2017. In this post she shares some insights into her research and reflects on her time in London.
During my stay at the ICS this year, I have been completing my book on the history of a Roman religious festival called the Ludi Saeculares, or ‘Saecular Games’. This festival has a complex history: its precursor was originally celebrated by members of an elite clan during the Republic, but in 249 BCE, the rite came under civic supervision, to be performed during a crisis in the First Punic War. These Games were repeated during the Third Punic War, but only received the name ‘Ludi Saeculares’ when Augustus connected his performance of 17 BCE with the arrival of a new saeculum, an ‘age’ or ‘generation’, which he determined to be a period of 110 years. Claudius reformed the saeculum in 47 CE as a period of 100 years, and so the Saecular Games came to be held every Augustan or Claudian saeculum until 248 CE. These Games gave the emperor and his family the opportunity to preside over the arrival of a new age at Rome. The association between time and imperial dynasties became such a powerful tool for the creation and legitimization of emperors’ authority that it was adapted, rather than discarded, when Christianity became the dominant religion.
The ICS was an ideal base for finishing my project, which has involved the study of inscriptions, coins, and literary material from the Republic to Late Antiquity. The Institute’s library is supplied with excellent resources for all subjects in classical studies, ancient history, and archaeology. It was a privilege to be able to raid the open shelves for everything from commentaries on Statius’s poetry to editions of the inscriptions set up by Augustus and Septimius Severus to commemorate the events (Acta) of their Saecular Game. For more obscure items, I was able to benefit from the ICS’s central location: for example, the British Library, a fifteen-minute walk away, gave me access to a rare facsimile of a medieval manuscript by Festus, which summarized the encyclopedia of the scholar Verrius Flaccus, who was tutor to Augustus’s grandsons. The entry for the Ludi Saeculares is partially missing, as my photo shows: the book’s edges were burnt long ago. By measuring the lacunae for this entry and comparing them with the surviving text, I found that Verrius struggled to reconcile Augustus’s innovations with the Republican traditions behind the Saecular Games, contrary to what some editors have concluded in their conjectures.
Finally, the ICS’s holdings of numismatic material are invaluable, and are complemented by the vast coin collections at the British Museum across the street. Emperors often advertised their Saecular Games through their coinage, but many were not lucky enough to have their reigns coincide with the celebration of a new age on the Augustan or Claudian schedule. In such cases, emperors might decide to issue coins with legends such as FELICITAS SAECVLI, ‘felicity of the age’, to connect their dynasties with new eras of prosperity and security, even apart from performances of the Saecular Games. This ‘saeculum rhetoric’ became increasingly popular from the second century CE onward, and was adopted into formulas used in official inscriptions. Emperors also used their coinage to lend authority to their celebrations of the Games: in this denarius of 17 BCE (RIC 1.340), Augustus links the new saeculum of his reign with his predecessor, Julius Caesar. The coin’s obverse portrays the deified Caesar with a comet above his brow, a reference to the star that appeared at his funeral games in 44 BCE, and in imitation of an aureus issued in 38 BCE (RRC 534/1). The reverse depicts the herald who announced the performance of the Games, a once-in-a-lifetime event. The herald bears the image of the Julian star/comet on his shield, and to make perfectly clear the link between Caesar’s divinity and Augustus’s authority to usher in the new saeculum, the legend proclaims that ‘Augustus, son of a god, [performed] the Saecular Games’.
I was also grateful for constant buzz of the ICS’s multi-disciplinary lectures, which provided an important source of inspiration through dialogue with other fellows and visitors. For example, this autumn’s Ancient History seminar has greatly expanded my understanding of finance in the ancient world. My students will also reap the benefits of my time in London: the British Epigraphy Society’s autumn colloquium, as well as a recent conference on ‘The Language of Greek Religion’, gave me a number of ideas to integrate into courses I will be teaching at the University of Toronto this winter.
by Susan Dunning
Editor’s note: The ICS offers a number of non-stipendiary Visiting Fellowships to classical scholars from the UK and abroad. Further details can be found here. Scholars from outside the UK who wish to apply for funding to visit the ICS are currently being encouraged to apply via the British Academy’s Visiting Fellowships scheme. The deadline for sending expressions of interest to the Director for the current funding round is 9th January 2018.
Greg Woolf, Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, has recently returned from a trip to Madrid, where he was co-organizing a conference on Sensory Perceptions in Roman Polytheism. In this week’s blog post he reflects on the conference and shares his thoughts on the value of collaboration in humanities research.
The modern investigation of Roman religion began (as so often in classics) with careful discussions of the source materials, some key dialogues by Cicero, a mass of Latin inscriptions, statues of the gods and the remains of temples. The first attempts to describe the religious system as a whole made use of law as an organizing principle, more recent ones examined institutions. All of this is fantastically valuable but somewhere along the line we lost sight of the experiences of individual participants. This has been a focus of research for sometime now, especially at the Max Weber Kolleg in Erfurt, Germany, where Jörg Rüpke and his team have run a couple of large conferences and projects on Individualism and on Lived Ancient Religion. Last month we were approaching the question from a new direction.
What we were exploring in Madrid were the sounds and smells of ancient rituals, the interplay of bright lights and dark space, the noisy, gaudy pageantry of great processions in which glimmering statues of the gods left their gloomy temples and paraded through the streets. We talked not just about how individuals experienced all of this, but also about how experiencing things together created common perceptions, shared knowledge of the divine. We talked about synaesthesia, and the way different senses worked together. Blasts of trumpets attract attention, visual stimuli hold it longer, incense and song are entrancing at short range, not so much at a distance. Many of the best documented rituals – triumphs, for example, or the funerals of emperors on their way to becoming gods – appealed to a number of senses in combination and played to vast publics. But we also spoke about the sensory overload involved in many initiation rituals, the use of fire in dark spaces, or masks and shadows, and even more unusual performances like fire-walking and marking the body.
Some of my friends who work in the physical sciences sometimes ask me what collaborative research means in the humanities. Don’t you just need to go and read books on your own, think about them and then write a new one? How does it help to bring in someone else, except to check facts at the end of the process? For those brought up in a tradition of large laboratory research in particular, the way we collaborate seems rather mysterious. One friend who works in chemistry told me he would go somewhere else to work if the other lab had a piece of kit they didn’t have at his own university, or if a member of another team was an expert in a particular kind of synthesis. But just to talk?
In a way our conference did pool expertise. Valentino Gasparini and I had both been part of the Erfurt project on Lived Ancient Religion. One of my co-organizers, and our host at Universidad Carlos III Madrid (UC3M) was Jaime Alvar Ezquerra, a world expert on the mystery religious that became popular across the ancient world during the last centuries BC and the first AD. His book Romanising Oriental Gods was a foundation for many of our conversations. We were able to invite a number of other expert participants, including Miguel John Versluys, an archaeologist from Leiden who led a major project on the goddess Isis and the spread of her worship from Egypt across the ancient world, and Nicole Belayche from Paris who works on connections between the cultic traditions of ancient Turkey and Syria and those of the wider Mediterranean world. In different combinations we have been working together on Roman polytheism for decades. But none of us were really knowledgeable about the new history of the senses that combines cognitive science, human biology and cultural history in highly original ways. For this we invited Mark Bradley from Nottingham and Adeline Grand-Clément from Toulouse who last year ran another workshop, Sensing Divinity, hosted by the British School at Rome. Mark also edits The Senses in Antiquity, the only monograph series dealing with these themes in relation to the classical world. Both Adeline and Mark have an excellent knowledge of where the cutting edge is right now (and were also able to stop us reinventing the wheel!). We had other participants too, each adding material from their past research or developing new projects out of it. It was a fascinating couple of days and the volume we produce out of it should be an important basis for further projects.
How does collaborative research like this come about? In my experience it is usually a combination of serendipity and hard work writing grant applications. In this case part of the serendipity was that another of the organizers, Anton Alvar Nuño, spent part of last year as a visiting fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies. As for the funding, part of that came from a research prize I held from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung and a part from UC3M and its constituent institutes. Almost every major conference or workshop relies on help from several sources and part of the skill – in this case Jaime’s – was bringing them together. Jaime and I are also participating this year in Catedra de Excelencia scheme sponsored by UC3M and Santander Bank. I will spend some time in Madrid, and Jaime at the ICS in London, and we will overlap our stays so that – among other things – we can edit the proceedings of this conference.
Among other things, because one fundamental lesson I have learned about research collaboration in the humanities is the need to leave space for serendipity. Institutions like the School of Advanced Study here in London, or foreign schools abroad, are particularly good places for incubating collaborations of this kind. Researchers come with their own projects, but then make connections, at a seminar, during a workshop, even just over coffee. A mathematician friend of mine once told me the best way to general original work in his field was to get a bunch of mathematicians together in a room with a big white board and unlimited coffee and eventually “something would happen”. Perhaps collaborative research in the humanities is not completely different from collaboration in the sciences.
by Greg Woolf
I’m delighted to be launching the new blog of the Institute of Classical Studies (ICS). As the national centre for the promotion and facilitation of research in Classics and related disciplines throughout the UK and abroad, we’re one of nine humanities research Institutes within the School of Advanced Study in London; the ICS plays host to a whole range of Classics-related events and activities. As well as holding regular seminar series and conferences the Institute is home to a number of research projects (with a particular strength in digital humanities); we also disseminate some of the latest research in Classics through our publications, and are home to a world-class specialist library which is run in partnership with the Hellenic and Roman Societies. In addition the ICS welcomes academic visitors and visiting fellows from around the world, as well as supporting a number of research associates who are at an early stage of their academic career in the UK. We’ll be using this blog as a way of sharing with you more about ICS people and projects; from time to time we’ll also be inviting colleagues from other institutions to talk about their research here too.
One important – and developing – area of the ICS’s remit is the sharing of university research in Classics with the wider public, and it’s this which will be my own particular focus during my time here, as I’ve recently taken up a new role as Public Engagement Fellow in Classics. I’m looking forward to discovering more about the mutual benefits which come from fostering conversations between researchers and those outside universities (for example through building partnerships with community groups, creative practitioners, schools and other organisations like museums and galleries); I’ll be reporting back here on some of the projects and people I encounter along the way. You can read more about the way in which public engagement features more widely within the work of the School of Advanced Study here; one key element of this is the annual Being Human festival, which is the UK’s only national humanities festival. I’ll be talking to colleagues on the Being Human team to learn more about what the key ingredients are for successful engagement projects.
I’m also working to find ways in which the ICS can support academics elsewhere in the UK who want to do more to engage the public with their own research; one recent development here has been our launch of a seed fund which offers small grants to facilitate classically-themed engagement projects. Meanwhile I’m currently putting together the programme for a workshop day to allow researchers to share the public-facing elements of their work with one another, and to discuss their ideas for engagement activities based on their research. Watch this space for more details.
In addition, I’ll be arranging a series of public events hosted by the ICS; for a taste of the kinds of things we’ll be doing take look at the coverage of our recent public event ‘Why do we need monsters?’ There’s a video available here, and you can also read the Storify of tweets relating to the event; we’ll be sharing more news on the blog soon about ways in which we’ll be continuing the conversation about classical monsters which began at the event.
You’ll find regular news updates on the blog about our work – do consider subscribing if you’d like to be notified whenever we post something new. You can also follow us on Twitter @IcsDirector. See you again soon!
by Emma Bridges
(Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)