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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.

Detail from an Attic red-figure amphora (c. 470 BCE) depicting Hades (Louvre Museum). Image credit Wikimedia Commons.

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.