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The Institute of Classical Studies

Sharing and promoting research in Classics.

Teaching Digital Classics in the ICS and Internationally

As part of our contribution to the Intercollegiate Masters programme in classics, ancient history, art and archaeology, late antique and Byzantine studies and classical reception, the ICS offers two one-semester modules on Digital Classics. These modules are: ICS02 Digital Classics: Linking Written and Material Culture and ICS03 Digital Approaches to Cultural Heritage: Places, Artefacts and Images.

Ancient Greek TreebankThe Digital Classics module, which currently runs in the spring semester, focuses primarily on text, art, literature and language, including sessions on text encoding, text and image annotation, translation alignment, morphosyntactic annotation, computational linguistics and a short introduction to programming for text analysis. Other sessions we have sometimes incorporated include palaeography, collaborative editing, pedagogy, philological tools, or data structuring and visualization. As part of this module, students prepare a small digital project, which may involve one or several of the methods, tools or materials presented in the course, and attempt to demonstrate through a small research project the academic potential (or shortcomings) of the method. Along with a short report on the experiment and its results, this project forms the assessment for the module, and contributes to the MA result at the students’ home institution.

3D CAD model of Ecclesiasterion, PompeiiThe Digital Approaches to Cultural Heritage module, currently led by Valeria Vitale in the fall semester, focuses on material and cultural heritage from the classical world and beyond, and several key methods for studying these areas. Topics covered by this module generally include geographic technologies (geo-annotation, gazetteers, visualization, analysis and GIS), 3D imaging and modelling (including using the computers, VR headsets and printers at the Institute), network analysis crowdsourcing, and public engagement. Other topics have included prosopography, data structuring, visualization and querying, linked open data, and copyright. The assessment for the Cultural Heritage module is similar to that for Digital Classics, combining a practical project and written report applying and then assessing a method or tool.

Both of these masters modules contribute to and draw on the international, massively collaborative Sunoikisis Digital Classics programme, founded at Leipzig University by Dr Monica Berti in 2015. SunoikisisDC is made up of about 25–30 sessions per year, divided into three semesters, that are presented online via GoogleHangouts sessions and YouTube videos. A few dozen scholars from universities and cultural heritage institutions from Georgia to Brazil, Iran to Canada, and Finland to Egypt, via almost all of Europe, contribute to the individual sessions. Each session usually involves 2–3 presenters, and a mix of lecture, software- or web-demo, and discussion. We aim for an overview of theoretical background, concrete project examples or case study, and practical exercises for the students.

Sunoikisis Digital Classics web page at Leipzig

Each participating scholar or department has a slightly different relationship between their home teaching and the SunoikisisDC programme; some use the Youtube videos as a loose backbone for their teaching semester, others see the programme as a list of resources to be offered as “further reading” on certain topics for students, but not central to the course itself. In all cases, student recruitment, tuition, supervision and assessment are entirely the responsibility of the local tutor.

Here at the ICS, we use the fall and spring semesters of SunoikisisDC as the main information-provision element of the taught modules, each hour of which is then supplemented by two hours of discussion seminar and practical tutorials to work on the concepts and topics of the course. An average of 2–3 students from the University of London intercollegiate MA programme take each module, and about the same number of PhD students or early career scholars audit the seminars. For those who take the module for credit, assessment is by a practical project, for which each student brings together methods or tools from one more session and some text or material of interest to their own studies, and attempts to bring about some original creation or new knowledge production using it. A short written report combines discussion of the background of the topics and methods applied, and an assessment of their effectiveness in the declared aim.

SunoikisisDC session on Translation Alignment using Ugarit

In past years, our students have built 3D reconstructions of buildings at Pompeii or other ancient sites, visualized geographic information or annotations in mapping software, used EpiDoc to encode small epigraphic corpora, assessed the pedagogical value of translation alignments, and build and queried small bodies of morphosyntactically annotated (“Treebanked”) ancient texts for linguistic research. The standard of work has been incredibly rich, and students have without exception risen to the challenge of approaching very new and very difficult materials as part of their Masters or later research.

by Gabriel Bodard

Decompartmentalising Thucydides

Dr. Maria Fragoulaki (Cardiff), Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies (2018-19), reports on a day on Thucydides’ modern reception hosted by the ICS earlier this year.

What do an analysis of the ‘chain of participles’ in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War and its implications for the text’s translation and poetic qualities, online games based on the Melian Dialogue and ‘Thucydides Trap’, the International Relations catchword, have in common? The answer is that they belong to the diverse and dynamic space of Thucydides’ modern reception. These and other themes, such as Thucydides’ role in the life and work of twentieth-century politicians, modern theatrical adaptations and performances of his History, and his re-invention as International Relations guru by modern American politics of the 1950s and the 1960s, were explored at the international workshop on ‘Thucydides Global: Teaching, Researching, Performing Thucydides’, which took place on 30 April 2019, hosted by the Institute of Classical Studies. The event aimed at a ‘global’ approach of Thucydides’ modern reception through a variety of themes and media, with participants from within and outside the academy, from the UK, Germany, US, Brazil, and Greece. The workshop was a collaboration of Cardiff University and Ruhr Universität Bochum in Germany, and was supported by the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and the Classical Association, UK, who subsidised Cardiff University students to attend the event. The papers themselves, the interaction between the speakers, and the involvement and comments of the audience, all contributed to the day’s ‘global’ success. The day opened with a welcome address by the Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, Greg Woolf, followed by a brief introduction by me in which I aimed to present the rationale and scope of the workshop.

Thucydides’ text has broken the boundaries of its time, having had a formative influence on political philosophy, International Relations (IR), history writing, philosophy of history, art and literature. In an increasingly interconnected world in financial, cultural and political terms, the historical lessons of this ‘difficult’ and long historical narrative from ancient Greece appears to be a source of inspiration for groups and individuals in the academy and beyond. Thucydides is a staple of any introductory course to IR theory, and is often quoted (or misquoted) in modern political debate and less expected contexts, such as mindfulness training or new age wisdom, as Neville Morley reminded us. In addition to IR and politics at large, the day also comprised papers on the poetics and politics of Thucydides’reception, through the themes of translation and performance, two under-explored areas.

The term ‘global’ in the title of the workshop was used to signpost the text’s prismatic quality and our aim to explore the potential of breaking boundaries which traditionally tend to divide the field: one ‘compartment’ can be described as ‘mainstream reception’, with special focus on political science, IR, anthropology, social science etc; and another is occupied by the so-called ‘traditional approaches’, largely text-centred, and heavily pre-occupied with the problems of philological and historical scholarship from different perspectives. Both ‘compartments’ were represented in the workshop by experts who have devoted considerable amounts of time, energy and care to this ‘global’ author and are open and committed to continued dialogue and exploration.

There is something paradoxical about Thucydides’ work: on the one hand it is a text that famously resists easy interpretation (and translation), containing abstractions and ambiguities (especially in the speeches), and on the other it has been used a lot for maxims or crude historical analogies and interpretations. Christian Wendt discussed Thucydides’ ‘labelling’ and itemisation in relation to the idea of ‘Thucydides Trap’, an IR maxim of global buzz, and the text’s suitability for inspiring political analogies. The problem of crude interpretations in the area of IR theory was also touched on by Neville Morley, who concentrated on the famous Melian Dialogue and its potential of providing means of interpreting situations in real life (see Neville’s blogpost reflecting on the day). Undeniably, one real-life analogy in the light of Yanis Varoufakis’ engagement with game theory could be the ‘Parallel [to an extent] Lives’ or rather ‘Parallel Dramas’ of Grexit and Brexit; although on the day we all appeared to have tacitly agreed not to engage head-on with these words. Another ‘false myth’ was deconstructed by Liz Sawyer, who demonstrated that Thucydides entered the field of IR theory as ‘founding father’ later than is often assumed, namely in the 1950s and early 1960s, as a result of a combination of factors related to US educational policy, ideology and rhetoric, the end of WWII and the start of the Cold War.

Thucydides as source of inspiration and subject of study for two politicians and men of letters of the modern era of different backgrounds was the subject of two papers: one by Hans Kopp, who examined the case of the Danish Minister of education and classical philologist Hartvig Frisch (1893-1950) in the 1930s and 1940s; and another paper whose subject was the Greek Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos (1864-1936) and his translation of Thucydides’ History, delivered by Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith, himself a man of letters and political action, with a long career as a diplomat. In both papers the question of translation of Thucydides’ text also emerged; this also took centre stage in the paper of Sandra Rodrigues da Rocha. By concentrating on markers of oral language in Thucydides, namely ‘chains of participles’, Sandra explored the oral, poetic and emotive qualities of the text in the framework of the act of translation.

‘Lessons of War I’, performed at the European Parliament, Yehudi Menuhin Space, March 2019. Photo copyright: George Tziampiris

Translation is a creative process and delivers a new text. The boundaries of creativity are explored even further when translation is combined with adaptation for the stage, which was the theme of John Lignades, member of the ‘Dramaticus’ team (bringing ancient Greek history on stage) and the Hellenic Education and Research Center (HERC), an educational organisation facilitating study abroad programmes in Greece focusing on interdisciplinary classics. John presented the ‘Lessons of War’, a theatrical play based on Thucydides, which was created in the so-called Greece of the crisis (post-2010 Greece) and was staged in major venues in Greece and at the European Parliament in March 2019. The symbolism of this modern political forum hosting a performance related to the Athenian democracy of C5 BCE is unmissable. Paul Cartledge, a ‘global’ ancient historian and expert in the reception of ancient political thought and institutions, also familiar with the work of the ‘Dramaticus’ team, introduced the presentation.

Left: Acropolis playbill image; Right: Theatrical review, The Daily Herald, 25 November 1933

The last part of the workshop comprised short responses-comments by three interdisciplinary classicists. Dan Tompkins presented us with an alternative and intriguing panorama of IR perspectives and experts.Peter Meineck, also a theatre practitioner, concentrated on the theatricality and experiential-cognitive-therapeutic dimension of Thucydides’ war narrative. Sara Monoson commented on crisis and Thucydides’ use as source of inspiration in such moments, considering how we might think about what makes a particular point of reception significant. The idea of Thucydides’ cherry-picking surfaced again and the criteria which might lead our choices. Sara’s comparative examples drew on American political oratory and the play ‘Acropolis’ (1933) by the American playwright Robert Sherwood. The day generated vibrant dialogue and exchange of ideas, with which we hope to continue. Thucydides’ de-compartmentalisation in progress…

by Maria Fragoulaki

Sanctuaries and Experience: Knowledge, Practice and Space in the Ancient World

Postdoctoral Research Fellows Dr. Ilaria Bultrighini and Dr. Camilla Norman report on a recent conference hosted by the Institute of Classical Studies.

The conference ‘Sanctuaries and Experience: Knowledge, Practice and Space in the Ancient World’ was held at Senate House, London, on 8th–10th April 2019. It marked the culmination of a five-year project funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation through an Anneliese Maier Research Prize held by ICS Director Greg Woolf and led by him and Jörg Rüpke from the University of Erfurt. The primary aim of the project is to establish conversations among a variety of different disciplines to develop a better set of understandings of the religious function of ancient sanctuaries. It has done this by running workshops and sponsoring conferences in Germany, the UK and Spain, and one doctorate.

The conference was organised by Greg Woolf together with the two of us, as part of our role as post-doctoral research fellows within the project. It brought a diverse group of researchers together to discuss the ways in which sanctuaries, and the activities that took place around them, formed religious experience and reproduced religious knowledge across the ancient world. When we prepared the call for papers, we explicitly aimed at attracting researchers from a range of different disciplines including prehistoric, classical and late antique archaeology, social anthropology and ancient history, art history, Jewish and early Christian studies, and the history of religions, covering the wider Mediterranean region including the Near East and North Africa. Moreover, we expected some papers would focus on individual experiences, including sensory dimensions of the rituals that took place at sanctuaries, others on cognitive and even literary-historical kinds of knowledge. We hoped some papers would deal with material culture, some with images, some with religious spaces, others with epigraphic and literary texts.

Our hopes and expectations were met. The three-day conference, attended by almost 80 people, comprised a total of 20 papers and 5 posters which dealt with pre-Roman Italy and Magna Graecia (Camilla Norman; Giovanni Mastronuzzi, Davide Tamiano, Giacomo Vizzino; Tesse Stek; Marco Serino; Arianna Zapelloni Pavia), ancient Egypt (Thomas Gamelin), Archaic to Hellenistic Greece (Rita Sassu; Ilaria Bultrighini; Erica Angliker, Yannos Kourayos, Kornilia Daifa; Livia Maria Mutinelli; Kate Caraway; Tulsi Parikh), Roman Greece (Georgia Petridou; Elena Franchi), Early & Imperial Rome (Katharina Rieger; Marlis Arnhold; Krešimir Vuković; Jaime Alvar Ezquerra; Emma-Jayne Graham; Csaba Szabó; Vincenzo Timpano), the Roman Near East (Dominic Dalglish), Greece and Rome in comparison (Katja Sporn), as well as papers focusing more on theoretical issues relating to ancient sanctuaries (Esther Eidinow; Jörg Rüpke). A full programme can be accessed via this link.

Hugh Bowden talks to conference delegates at the London Mithraeum (Image credit Camilla Norman).

The occasion was one of great conviviality, with the combined papers offering much food for thought. Discussions continued outside the conference room into planned social events and spontaneous gatherings, including the now seemingly obligatory break for a fire alarm. An excellent conference dinner was enjoyed at the Life Goddess and the entire event was rounded off by a trip to the London Mithraeum, where participants were fortunate enough to be given insights to the history of the site and its reimagining by Hugh Bowden who was one of the leading consultants in is restoration.

We have now begun working on the proceedings, which will (hopefully) include contributions by all the paper and poster presenters as well as a number of additional articles by further international experts who could not join our conference. The volume will take an interdisciplinary approach and illustrate a variety of current developments in the study of ritual practice, knowledge and experience as it took place in relation to sanctuaries in antiquity.

by Ilaria Bultrighini and Camilla Norman

Homer and Herodotus: friends or foes?

Dr. Ivan Matijašić (Newcastle University) reports on a recent workshop held in Newcastle and supported by an ICS conference grant.

Portrait bust of Homer. Roman copy of a Hellenistic original. (BM 1825).

The workshop Homer and Herodotus: A Reappraisal was held at Newcastle University, 4-5 March 2019. Participants and attendees alike discussed the intertextual relationship between Homer and Herodotus, the various common themes that emerge from their works, and their later combined reception in antiquity.

Both authors are well known even outside the narrow circles of professional classicists. Homer, or rather the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, is undoubtedly the father of Greek epic poetry. Herodotus was, according to a famous Ciceronian claim, the father of history, whose work contained nonetheless many fabulae (‘myths’, ‘stories’). Their significance for ancient Greek literature, history, archaeology and historiography cannot be overestimated. The ever-growing amount of publications on both Homer and Herodotus, including several ‘Companions’, is impressive and sometimes daunting.

At the end of 2017 I accepted an invitation to participate to a postgraduate seminar in Venice. The organisers, Ettore Cingano and Stefania De Vido, gave me free rein on the topic. I decided to focus on a disputed passage in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophistai which refers to dramatic performances of the works of Homer and Herodotus in a theatre in Hellenistic Alexandria. However, the name of Herodotus has been effaced from the most important editions and translations of Athenaeus since the nineteenth century, when Friedrich Meineke, a great classical scholar, questioned the correctness of the passage and replaced Herodotus’ name with Hesiod’s.


Herodotus by Jean-Guillaume Moitte, 1806. (Louvre Palace, Paris.)

My stance was that the text of Athenaeus’ should not be corrected for a number of sensible reasons. Among these reasons I also included the – sometimes overlooked – fact that in ancient thought Homer and Herodotus were regarded as two complementary authors: the themes they treated, their language and their style were often considered related. (My article on this Athenaeus passage is going to appear in the next issue of the Journal of Hellenic Studies.) When I started looking for a comprehensive study on the relationship between Homer and Herodotus in antiquity, I found out that, apart from a few articles by John Marincola and Christopher Pelling, there was nothing I could rely on for my argument. To express myself more clearly: there is no book-length study that focuses on both authors.

Hence, I decided that the time was ripe to organise a conference on this topic and started to put together a list of possible participants. Scholars of different ages and backgrounds were involved in this conference, from early career researchers to emeritus professors. Their range of intellectual traditions allowed for the combination of different perspectives in a very constructive way. The final list of speakers included: Christopher Pelling (Oxford), Maria Fragoulaki (Cardiff), Pietro Vannicelli (Sapienza, Rome), Giulia Donelli (Bristol), Massimo Giuseppetti (Roma Tre), Thomas Harrison (St Andrews), Joseph Skinner (Newcastle), Olga Tribulato (Venice), and me.

Chris Pelling, in his fascinating keynote lecture ‘Homeric and Herodotean intertextuality: what’s the point?’, opened up various possible lines of enquiry when dealing with authors from the archaic and classical ages. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were surely familiar poems in the fifth century BC. References and allusions to the Homeric poems in Herodotus’ Histories highlight the different ways in which an audience might react to certain stories and narrative patterns. Chris’ paper raised many questions, and tried to provide a few answers, on reader-response and intertextuality.

The various speakers tried to assess, from different perspectives, how much can be plausibly pinned down as actually intertextual between Homer and Herodotus and how much should refer to a general mythical matrix. Many different and engaging themes were tackled during the two-day workshop: from representations of the human body in war-related contexts (Fragoulaki) to Xerxes’ expedition against Greece (Vannicelli), from Herodotus’ reception of poetic frames of truth and fiction in Book 8 (Donelli) to appropriation and deconstruction of Homeric epics in Herodotus’ Book 2 (Giuseppetti), from the nature of gods in Greece and Egypt (Harrison) to issues of Greek identity (Skinner), from the linguistic analysis of Herodotus’ language (Tribulato) to the combined reception of Homer and Herodotus in ancient culture (Matijašić).

The workshop allowed for the discussion of a number of general issues, for example: the ‘Homeric world’ through the lens of Herodotus’ Histories; the nature of the language of both authors and how it was perceived in antiquity; the reception of the Homeric epics, and of poetry in general, in Herodotus; the different ways in which later audiences responded to their intertextual relationship. The workshop was attended by more than thirty people, including colleagues, graduate students and undergraduates. Christopher Tuplin very kindly accepted my invitation to give the concluding remarks and offered many exciting perspectives.

My aim is now to collect the various contributions and publish a volume that will hopefully represent a reference work: it will certainly fill a gap in the current scholarship on Homer and Herodotus. From a wider perspective, the output of the workshop will contribute to the advancement of our knowledge in the field of Greek historiography, epic poetry, fifth-century-BC literacy and intertextuality in Greek literature.

by Ivan Matijašić

(Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)