The Institute of Classical Studies
Sharing and promoting research in Classics.
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.
The 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.
The 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.
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.
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
Dr. David Walsh (University of Kent) shares some thoughts on his podcast series, ‘Coffee and Circuses’, which was recently supported by an ICS Public Engagement Grant.
Like many people, I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the last few years listening to podcasts. Whether learning something new from shows like In Our Time or reliving my childhood by listening to discussions on 90s pro-wrestling, tuning in on the way to work or whilst cooking dinner, they’ve become a regular fixture in my daily routine. I’m not alone this, with an average 5.9 million adults listening to podcasts on a weekly basis in 2018, with the biggest growth among people aged 18-24.
Having clocked up many hours of listening to podcasts, I began to ponder what it would be like to produce my own. It seemed to me that there were many podcasts out there discussing figures and events from the ancient world, which is great, but I’ve often thought it would be interesting to focus on the people who work on this stuff: the archaeologists, lecturers, curators, tour-guides, authors etc. I mean, having a Roman building or inscription is all well and good, but you need someone to find, interpret, publish, and then do something creative with it. One of the things that has often struck me about this field is that it is full of interesting people who have their own stories to tell, but you don’t always get a sense of their personalities from reading their books or journal articles. So I figured that a podcast could be a way of communicating this in an accessible fashion. What drew them to ancient history or archaeology? How does their work intersect with their other interests? What do they feel about how the subject has developed? Where do they think it will go in future?
I also hoped that in some minor way it might break down some barriers, as I think misconceptions still abound that a career studying the ancient world is permitted only for a small, privileged group. And when I talk about those who might have these misconceptions, I don’t just mean people outside of the field, but students (and prospective students) of the subject too. As much as lecturers can try to inject personality into their teaching, they’re often limited on time and/or dealing with large groups, so for many students their lecturer or other professionals can feel like distant figures. Listening to a lecturer (or archaeologist, curator, author etc.) talk about their background, missteps and aspirations can demonstrate to students, and people more widely, that the subject is accessible to a broad range of people (or at least it’s moving in the right direction).
One of my favourite episodes thus far was with Miller Power at TRAC 2019, where he discussed his trans-identity, and addressed this theme in both the archaeological record and the academic world. I could have record myself giving my thoughts on this and putting them out to the world, but how can what I have to say compare to someone who has lived it? Miller’s observations give a fresh perspective, and I can’t see how that’s anything but a good thing for study of the Roman world. Similarly, the most recent episode recorded with Mai Musié, recorded at the FIEC/CA conference, highlights that the ancient world wasn’t just the Greek or Roman societies living in isolation, but rather they were part of wider networks that included communities in India, China and Sub-Saharan Africa. Approaching the subject with this in mind opens up all kind of possibilities, not just for research, but for people from an array of backgrounds and experiences to make a contribution to it.
I also hope that hearing how Ellen Swift studied pharmacy for a year before switching to archaeology, or how it wasn’t until long after university that Caroline Lawrence found success as a writer, or how Alex Davies thinks returning to academia as mature student is one the best decisions she’s made, highlights that whatever stage you’re at, it’s never too late to pursue your interest. It’s even never too late to start a podcast…
by David Walsh
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.
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.
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
Dr. Rosie Wyles (University of Kent) reports on a recent project which was supported by an Institute of Classical Studies public engagement grant.
The 3rd April 2019 saw a day-long celebration of Classics at the University of Kent. The Department of Classical & Archaeological Studies (CLAS) hosted two workshops on Greek comedy for local members of the U3A
(the University of the Third Age, which is made up of retired members of the community, and which has over 1000 branches across the UK) and an afternoon of public lectures showcasing the research of our postgraduates and staff. The day’s celebrations were topped off with a performance of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata put on by our undergraduate students.
‘Greek Comedy in Action’ formed a major part of the day’s celebrations with the workshops, one of the lectures and the evening production all engaging with Aristophanes. We gained a fantastic response from local branches of the U3A to our advertisement of a workshop on Lysistrata – so much so that we had to add an extra one in the afternoon to allow everyone to attend!
The workshops offered an introduction on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and an opportunity to exchange ideas on the play’s resonance today. Dr Rosie Wyles (Lecturer in Classical History & Literature) ran the workshops and found the discussion highly stimulating. The groups considered issues of gender, war, and civic identity, as well as the challenges of staging Greek comedy today. It was particularly revealing that while the focus questions did not explicitly reference the current political situation, the Aristophanic material soon prompted groups to think about how Theresa May and Brexit protests might figure in adaptations of Lysistrata.
The afternoon lecture on Aristophanes was attended by the Department’s research community, members of the public and school groups, including the wonderfully enthusiastic pupils from Norton Knatchbull School (Ashford) and Simon Langton Girls (Canterbury). The talk set out the significance of props in Lysistrata, and argued for their importance in considering ancient drama in general. You can listen to this, and the other research talks from the afternoon, here. The talk was based on Dr Wyles’ current research, which she plans to publish as a monograph with the title Propping up Athens.
The evening production of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata offered a superbly riotous and informative end to the day. All credit for the performance goes to our undergraduates who came up with the idea for the production and who managed the project from start to finish (with a little administrative support from the Department). Some of those involved knew each other from taking the ‘Athenian Power Plays’ module (which explores the relationship between ancient Greek drama and society) as part of their degree. Above all, however, they are friends from the Kent Classical & Archaeological student Society (KCAS – you can find out more about them on Facebook). The play was hilarious and a standing testament to the hard work of the cast and crew. It also provided an excellent complement to the workshops showing Greek comedy literally in action.
We are very grateful to the ICS for the public engagement grant which enabled the workshops and production to take place. Participants of the workshops acknowledged what a valuable part of the learning experience seeing the production proved to be. The response to ‘Greek Comedy in Action’ has been so positive that the Department of Classical & Archaeological Studies at the University of Kent is now looking to extend this initiative with the U3A by offering further workshops, led by a range of colleagues, to the local community in Autumn. Watch this space!
by Rosie Wyles
(Image credits Rosie Wyles)
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.
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
Prof. Susan Deacy (Roehampton) reports on a public engagement project supported by the ICS.
A little over a decade ago I tentatively began to develop a project whose goal was to develop activities for autistic children focused around classical myth. Last year, thanks to an ICS Public Engagement Grant, I was able to run an event which has transformed what I’m doing.
The idea for the project began at a meeting in 2008 with a special needs teacher, who mentioned that, in her experience and those of her colleagues, autistic children often engage with learning about classical myth. Starting with this anecdotal evidence, I began to wonder why this might be the case, and whether – as a classicist who researches classical myth – there was anything I could do by way of creating resources. I reached out to many people, including dramatherapists and special needs teachers, and I kept getting encouraging responses. The result was something that has transformed various aspects of my practice, including taking on the role of departmental disability coordinator. And I started a blog, Mythology and Autism, to set out my gradual, and often sporadic, progress. For a while, the blog broadened into a disability blog more broadly. This was until I teamed up with the ERC-funded project Our Mythical Childhood (2016-21), which is based in Warsaw and was set up to trace the role of classics in children’s and Young Adult culture. My own main contribution to the project is to explore where classical myth might sit in autistic children’s culture by producing three sets of activities.
I completed the first set of activities in February 2018. This is based on a specific episode in the myth of Hercules: the point where he is tasked to choose between two contrasting paths in life. I opted for Hercules as a figure with what I consider to be particular appeal to autistic children. These reasons include the potential for Hercules – as the hero who repeatedly experiences hardships and who is ever needing to learn all over again how to respond to what life throws at him – to ‘speak’ to some of the challenges that autistic children encounter. More specifically, the activities concern Hercules when, on reaching a strange place, he is tasked with making a choice between what is on one side of the landscape and what’s on the other side.
I designed the activities as a means to help autistic children deal, though an immersion in the experiences of a mythological figure, with some of the challenges they might encounter, including how to read body language or facial expressions, how to understand how the present can turn into the future, and how to deal with changes in routine. As well as seeking to respond to the challenges autistic children face, I was working on the premise that there is potential, via classical myth to empower them and to draw on their strengths. The activities centre round the Choice as it is represented on an 18th-century chimneypiece panel in Grove House, which is part of the University of Roehampton: my workplace. I included some highly provisional drawings of the panel, created on my PC, to accompany the resources.
After publishing the activities, I began to seek feedback, including via a couple of online sessions. Most of the feedback came from academics in classics and other Humanities subjects, and also some autistic people, whose feedback was especially helpful. At this time, I also gained useful feedback from classicists whenever I spoke about my project, including when I took part in a Public Engagement workshop run by Emma Bridges at the ICS in March 2018. What I hadn’t sought yet, however, was feedback from specialists in autism and child development, or others who work with autistic children, or indeed from the most important people in this: autistic children. The Public Engagement grant enabled the former, once Emma had reassured me that a suitable ‘public’ was external partners whose insights might inform my research and enable me to refine the resources. I wrote to potential participants to find out whether they might be interested in coming to Roehampton to discuss the project should the application be successful. This included some of those whose work had been inspiriting me over the years, such as the pioneering autism specialist Rita Jordan, and Nicola Grove whose adaptations of myths and other stories had long inspired me.
When I received news that my application for an ICS Public Engagement Grant had been successful, I was delighted and nervous at once at the prospect of putting my work up for discussion. In the interim, I made further progress with the project. Notably, along with Effrosyni (Effie) Kostara as Researcher, I made preparations for a pilot study in a London primary school’s autism base. Effie, who is an Education professional whose first degree was in Classical Philology, also prepared a guide to the activities for teachers. I also presented the activities for first time in Warsaw in May, with adults in a café run by autistic people. I also did practical things like finding a date for the public engagement event that would work for all. Some people needed to drop out; some of the participants put me in touch with others for example, two members of The Participatory Autism Research Collective (PARC), which is promoting the participation of autistic people in autism research. I prepared materials for discussion, emailing them in advance and printing out hard-copy versions for the day. These comprised an introduction to the activities, the activities themselves and the draft version of the guide for teachers.
What follows are some of the key things that came up out of our discussion – which included some searching questions, and also some pointers as to how to go forward. I am not going to try to cover everything here – more can follow on my own blog, where I’ve already said a few things already about what took place. My colleague Helen Slaney, who was then the Research Facilitator for Humanities at Roehampton, gave invaluable support at all stages including in taking notes of the discussion.
Why Hercules? Perhaps the most searching question that came up – indeed it’s a question that goes to the heart of the project – is why I had opted for Hercules as a focal point. Would other sets of stories do just as well, the participants asked, for example Winnie the Pooh? I set out how I think Hercules bears on the resources. I described Hercules as one who is at home in the wilds – his own space – where he is capable of things that others cannot manage. He needs to learn the rules of each new scenario he experiences. Each time, he needs to find a new way to deal with a fresh situation. In the wilds, he invariably manages to overcome obstacles. Then, when he gets to civilisation, something goes wrong, often terribly wrong. One of the participants from PARC commented, ‘that sounds like being autistic.’ He said that what always interested him was fantasy, and Westerns, particularly outsiders and outlaws. He liked how Hercules could count both as a hero – the greatest of heroes no less – and as an outsider. The discussion turned to how Hercules is appealing because he performs feats that others are unable to, which can also be the case for some autistic people. Hercules also experiences emotional overload and distress, and episodes from his myth might be a useful narrative in relation to acute perception.
Why classical myth? Related to the question of ‘why Hercules?’ was the question of how classical myth in broad terms might be relevant to autistic children. What came up was a consideration of the current thinking around supporting autistic children, which is to encourage an exploration of individual interests and passions. We discussed how far myth might be a source of special interest – because its figures its figures are well-delineated and have a clearly-recognisable iconography. Yet, there is also a remoteness to the scenarios and the figures of myth and it is this that can potentially make them easier to relate to.
Why so much? Another thing that came up was that the activities I presented were trying to do lots of things at once – which they were! As I had written them, I had been working though how potentially to use the ‘Choice of Hercules’ to do such wide-ranging things as: help in the recognition to abstract concepts; help improve decision-making skills; help in accessing and communication and understanding emotions; and help with recognising objects – all while introducing classical myth. The experts stressed that any of these might be viable, but each would require a specific approach.
This takes me to why it has taken me six months, from October 2018 until April 2019, to write this account of the event. I found that I needed some time – half a year as it has turned out – to think through what, specifically to do next. In the meantime, I ran the planned pilot study, along with Effie, at a London primary school’s autism base. I worked with the artist Steve K. Simons, a colleague on the Our Mythical Childhood project, and co-founder of the Panoply vase animation project. Steve has produced a set of high-quality vector drawings to accompany the activities, including the one illustrated here of the whole scene (Steve has also prepared a version where Hercules and ‘Pleasure,’ the woman to the right, are clothed).
I also gave several talks about my project, including to the Lampeter and South West Wales Classical Association branch, to the Early Childhood Studies Research Group at Roehampton and at a panel at CAMWS in the US on learning differences. Each audience brought some new insight – and all the while I had been thinking through the comments at the workshop funded with the ICS grant.
I have begun deciding which areas I should especially focus on and rewriting the activities in light of this. The areas are above all: making choices. The goals as I currently envisage them are:
- To present a series of activities for autistic children which fit current thinking around supporting autistic children which includes the exploration of individual interests and passions, one of which can be myth.
- To show how classical myth can facilitate communication and engagement for autistic children, including by utilising the potential for conceiving characters of myth as ‘gateways’ to understanding, identifying, contextualising and conceptualising oneself and others.
- To empower autistic children by drawing on their strengths as well as addressing some of the sources of distress they may encounter, such as the sense that their actions are always beyond their control. Linked with this, the activities seek to offer an alternative model for articulating experience and for making sense of the world.
- To utilise the potential appeal of Hercules for autistic children, including as a character who performs feats that others cannot and yet who experiences emotional overload and distress.
- To demonstrate relevant aspects of the ‘Choice of Hercules’ myth, including reasons for choices and what choices mean in a given contexts; the concept of causality, namely of assessing the consequences of such decisions in light of the past and future of the ‘Choice’ narrative.
Without the opportunity provide by the ICS grant, I wouldn’t have made all this progress. I am planning further pilot studies and taking advantage of opportunities that come up to talk about my project. I have also submitted a proposal for a book on the subject – while giving thought to the second of set of activities, which are likely also to be Hercules-themed. I shall continue to blog on the topic.
by Susan Deacy
Dr. Ivan Matijašić (Newcastle University) reports on a recent workshop held in Newcastle and supported by an ICS conference grant.
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.
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.)
Zofia Guertin (PhD Candidate at St. Andrews), Public Archaeology Co-ordinator and Project Manager at Aeclanum, reports on a project recently supported by one of the ICS’s small grants for public engagement.
With generous support from the ICS, the 2018 excavation season at Roman Aeclanum in Passo di Mirabella, Italy, had an exciting second year of innovative engagement with the local and regional community. Aeclanum is directed by the University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Ben Russell and Dr. Girolamo F. De Simone, director of the Apolline Project, with the support of the British School at Rome, the Comune di Mirabella Eclano, and the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le province di Salerno ed Avellino. This past season saw the creation of vibrant engagement materials for the local community and schools which our student volunteers and site specialists presented on for the Open Day. With increasing turnout each season, we are looking ahead to the culmination of a three-year public engagement programme for the upcoming 2019 season. This post will highlight some of the exciting things we are getting up to on the dark side of Vesuvius!
The ICS public engagement grant provided us with the opportunity to create new materials for the 2018 Open Day at Aeclanum which had dual aims to present recent research to the community and encourage visitors to engage through our broadcast interviews, community events and social media outreach via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and student blogs.
Due in part to the research interests of the directors and specialists on site, we wanted to explore trade networks and interconnectivity of the Roman world in at least one aspect of our outreach. We developed a matching tokens game for Roman marbles that linked characters to locations and then to materials, thereby illustrating the trade networks of the ancient world and contextualizing Aeclanum’s marble imports. Young visitors understood quickly, and to further illustrate the theoretical message, we provided tactile examples. Excavated marbles found on-site were available for the children to touch and clean, showing Aeclanum’s connection to distant locations.
Many of the public archaeology materials produced for 2018 were focused on a multi-phase bath complex. This included posters for adult audiences and young visitors to the site which would complement the areas being excavated. We presented a short story written by MA graduate of Durham University, Emily Johnston, and illustrated by myself about daily life at Aeclanum’s baths, and scientific panels based on our research articulating the findings so far, including 3D reconstructions projects for which the most significant of the archaeological structures were selected.
Combining comics and 3D reconstruction and field reports, these findings were included into the topography within a graphic novella, Vita Aeclano. An original graphic novella about daily life in Roman Aeclanum, developed and drawn by myself, it synthesizes elements of the short story, public outreach games and handouts and ongoing research within the archaeological site, linking all these elements together within the comic to create a cohesive project.
We focused on several themes which would tie into the longer-term projects that would be completed post-excavation season. The Open Day provided feedback from the young visitors which was used to inform the graphic novella that we are seeking to launch this 2019 season. We presented a panel that showed the different art styles used in archaeological representations of the site and small finds, which was used to introduce the stylistic approach of the graphic novella. Of the 350 adults and children who attended the 2018 Open Day, 40% of youth attendees responded.
The series of short stories and the Vita Aeclano graphic novellas I am planning and illustrating allow in-depth explorations into Roman daily life, linked to ongoing excavations in other locations. Finding elements that were particular to Aeclanum showed a community with its own identity among Roman cities across the empire. Collaboration with site directors, epigraphists, ceramicists, topographic specialists and GIS specialists were fundamental to details of daily life in the city of Aeclanum.
Following the 2018 excavation season, I delivered a paper, Creating comics for public engagement in Roman Aeclanum: illustrating Ancient History, at the Drawing on the Past: The Pre-Modern World in Comics conference, at the Institute of Classical Studies; I also presented a poster jointly with the writer of Vita Aeclano, Ambra Ghiringhelli (PhD Candidate at the University of Edinburgh), Creating comics for public engagement in Roman Aeclanum: visual conversations with Ancient History at the ‘Public Engagement with Research conference’, University of St Andrews. There are several forthcoming publications planned to explore current outcomes of the public engagement work and final outcomes once the graphic novella is launched in several languages with a website to facilitate free downloads with hardcopies forthcoming for purchase.
We are very grateful for the support from the Institute of Classical Studies on this project and look forward to presenting further findings and outcomes as this work concludes and other areas are developed.
by Zofia Guertin
(All images courtesy of Zofia Guertin)
Dr. Matthew Fitzjohn (University of Liverpool) reports on Grand Designs in Ancient Greece, a public engagement project funded by the AHRC and the University of Liverpool which involves cross-curricular teaching and learning through play at primary and secondary school levels.
Inspired by my research on houses and households in the Greek world, my interest in digital humanities, and a love of small plastic bricks, I created the project Grand Designs in Ancient Greece in 2015. The main aim of the project has been to create schemes of work and classroom activities to encourage pupils at Key Stage (KS) 2, 3 and 4 (ages 7-16 years) and A Level students to develop their knowledge of archaeology and Ancient Greece. A further aim has been to promote pupils’ interest in Ancient Greece (Classical Civilisations and History more generally) by integrating learning about Ancient Greece with other subjects including English, Design and Technology, Geography and Computing.
Since 2016, I have been working with Peta Bulmer (postdoctoral researcher and the main LEGO builder on the project). We have been collaborating with teachers at nine schools in England to explore and devise cross-curricular teaching resources based on my research. Responding to teachers’ needs, we have created teaching resources and classroom activities that cover content including archaeological methods, house construction and decoration, as well as the lives of children and women in the past. We have visited schools and helped teachers to lead the activities but the majority of our resources have been used by teachers leading their own classroom activities.
The lessons on Ancient Greece are actively cross-curricular and bridge the gap between arts and humanities teaching and Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects, with learning through play. The project is putting the arts into STEM teaching in order to build up a ‘head of STEAM’ in classrooms. Many of the activities have been created to include the use of LEGO or other non-branded plastic building bricks. This has included learners building models of houses from Olynthos and using their knowledge of daily life in Ancient Greece to write their own stories about the past, and to illustrate them with storyboards or produce stop-motion films of their model creations.
LEGO is also used to help pupils to learn about Pythagoras’ Theorem. This comes in very handy when they work as ‘archaeologists outside the classroom‘ to create archaeological grids and carry out surveys.
By thinking through and designing classical floor mosaics using LEGO tiles and analysing the geometrical features of houses, students learn about Ancient Greek art and architecture. Through these activities they also tackle problem-solving maths activities that enhance their skills in numeracy, measurement and comprehension of scale. The use of multimedia teaching and practical activities aim to make lessons that are of interest to all students of different ages, abilities, skills and interests.
The project would not have been possible without financial support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, and it would not have been such a success without the fantastic support of the teachers at our partner schools: Liverpool College, Liverpool; Carfield Primary School, Sheffield; King Henry VIII School, Coventry; Kempsey Primary School, Worcestershire; Patcham Junior School and Patcham High School Brighton; and the Priory Lewes. We are currently developing links with other schools, not only across the UK but also in Serbia and Italy.
You can download the primary and secondary resources from the TES website, here.I am keen to develop the resources and learn about how people may have used them, so please leave feedback or suggestions on the TES pages about the resources once you have seen or used them. If you would like to find out more about the project or get in touch with me directly please contact me at email@example.com.
by Matthew Fitzjohn
Kat Mawford and Matt Ingham, PhD students at the University of Manchester and members of the Manchester Classical Association committee, report on Athena’s Owls, a public engagement project working with local libraries in Manchester.
The Athena’s Owls project, part of the Manchester Classical Association’s public engagement programme, is a series of myth and ancient history crafts and literacy workshops aimed at children of primary school age, currently held on a monthly basis at Didsbury Library. Now in its second year, the project has four main aims: to introduce children to the ancient world and help them explore and maintain an interest in it; to create a fun and enjoyable experience in an inclusive environment, inviting children (and parents!) to find out about what we do and how learning about Ancient History can be useful and exciting; to provide a creative outlet; and to encourage literacy.
Each session involves a myth-based storytelling activity related to the session’s overall theme; this theme is further explored in the activity part of the workshop. This is the main focus of each session, where we work with the children on craft projects based on an aspect of classical culture. In the 18 months or so that we’ve been holding the workshops, children attending have worked on a huge range of projects: from making mosaics to Roman helmets, oil lamps, model triremes, laurel crowns, Cyclopes puppets, and even Roman sandals (to name just a few!)
It’s our intention to expand the project by holding a second set of regular workshops at another library, along with one-off sessions in other locations in Greater Manchester. Our ultimate aim is to compile all of our materials and topics and make them available as fully planned sessions for anyone (other libraries, public engagement groups, or schools) to hold their own sessions. At the moment, this aim is still at the planning stage, but watch this space! With this in mind, we have always made our own resources and designs for the craft activities – avoiding copyright issues – and since October 2018 (the first anniversary of the workshops), we have been writing our own versions of the myths, designed to be read aloud and suitable for the often quite broad age range we have at the sessions.
In February we were lucky enough to receive an ICS public engagement grant; this will allow us to gather a stock of materials and to develop the project even further, enabling us to expand to additional venues. In the past 18 months we have gone from attracting small groups of children who were already visiting the library to having regular attendees who travel specifically for the sessions. With increasingly ambitious projects and much larger groups, with the ICS’s support we’re really excited to see where Athena’s Owls will go from here.
If you’re interested in finding out more about what we do and the activities we cover, you can find pictures and details of events on the Manchester CA website or by following the #AthenasOwls hashtag on Twitter. Information about the dedicated Athena’s Owls website will also be shared on these accounts as and when there are developments.
by Kat Mawford and Matt Ingham (Image credits: Kat Mawford)
You can find the authors of this piece on Twitter at @katmawford and @mattjingham.