Friday, 23 March 2018

Artefact to Art (University of Leicester)

by Naoise Mac Sweeney

Every object tells a story. Indeed, behind each artefact lies not just one but a complex web of many untold tales – about the people who made it in antiquity, about those who used it over the ages, and finally about those who discovered it in modern times. As Keats mused in his famous poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn, sometimes an object can tell “a flowery tale more sweetly” than either poetry or prose.

In Leicester, we decided to put this idea at the heart of our latest engagement project, Artefact to Art (click here to visit the project website).  The A2A project (as it is affectionately known) encourages young people to take inspiration from classical artefacts, using this inspiration to create new and innovative artworks of their own. Over the last year, we have run workshops in schools and museums, produced teaching resources, and organised a competition for poetry and visual art.

The competition proved to have a wider appeal than we had dared to hope. We received submissions from four different continents, with the number of entries in some age categories running into the hundreds. We are delighted to be publishing sixty of these outstanding pieces in the forthcoming Artefact to Art book, as well as displaying them in an accompanying exhibition.

Especially exciting have been the original, and sometimes surprising, ideas that have sprung from artefacts that we in the classical community might dismiss as overly familiar. Our artists and poets have used Attic black figure pottery to think about colour in the natural world; gladiators’ helmets to ponder the nature of fear; and Roman mosaics to reflect on the recent “me too” campaign against sexual harassment.

The book launch and exhibition are part of the programme for the upcoming CA conference, which Leicester will be hosting for the first time in two decades. We felt that it was important for the conference to connect with our outreach and engagement work, and wanted the new project to reflect the nature of the department as a combined School of Archaeology and Ancient History. The Artefact to Art project, with its emphasis on the material traces of classical antiquity, emerged out of these two ambitions. 

We are grateful to the Classical Association for their help with setting up and publicising the project, to Routledge books for their generous donation of prizes, and to the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies for their generous support of the schools’ programme.

Dr Naoise Mac Sweeney is Associate Professor of Ancient History at the University of Leicester

Monday, 19 February 2018

Spring Books 2018

by Philip Hooker

Once again, we have studied the Bookseller’s Buyers Guide and picked out the books on classical themes which publishers believe will be of interest to the general reader.

Among the highlights is Circe, by Madeline Miller, whose Song of Achilles won the Orange Prize in 2012 and is one of their top ten in literary fiction.  In paperback, there will be The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes, House of Names by Colm Tóibín and The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.  For the Immortal, in hardback, is the ‘triumphant finale’ of Emily Hauser’s Golden Apple trilogy.

More popular works include the latest from Lindsey Davis, Robert Fabbri, Adrian Goldsworthy, Conn Iggulden, Harry Sidebottom, Ben Kane, Ian Ross, Anthony Riches and Simon Scarrow, who all seem to sell very well.   Lesser known, but more intriguing, is Alessandro Barbero’s The Athenian Women: A Novel, set in 411BC, the time of Lysistrata, with oligarchs oppressing the democrats (which is claimed to be very contemporary).

Adrian Goldsworthy is also highlighted for Hadrian’s Wall: Rome and the Limits of Empire, in the highly illustrated Landmark series.  Mary Beard has one of the two books based on the new BBC Civilisations series, describing ancient representations of the human body and the interface between art and religion.  We must also include Edith Hall, whose Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life is described as a self-help book.  Troy is also topical, which makes Naoise Mac Sweeney’s Troy: Myth, City, Icon particularly timely.

Non-fiction paperbacks include several acclaimed works from 2017: Paul Cartledge’s Democracy, Guy de la Bédoyère on the Praetorian Guard, Bijan Omrani’s Caesar’s Footprints: Journeys to Roman Gaul, and Catharine Nixey’s polemic on the Christian destruction of the Classical world.

There are a good number of new scholarly histories for the general reader:  Josiah Osgood’s Rome and the Making of a World State, 150 BCE - 20 CE, Robin Waterfield’s Creators, Conquerors and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece, Jeremy McInerney’s Greece in the Ancient World (illustrated), Angelos ChaniotisAge of Conquests: The Greek World from Alexander to Hadrian (336 BC – AD 138), Philip Matyszak’s The Greeks: Lost Civilisations  (all about Greeks abroad from India to Spain),  Peter RhodesPericlean Athens, and Richard BillowsBefore and After Alexander: The Legend and Legacy of Alexander the Great.

More specialist works come from Walter Scheidel, who has edited The Science of Roman History: Biology, Climate and the Future of the Past, on how the latest scientific advances have changed our understanding, Robin Osborne with The Transformation of Athens: Painted Pottery and the Creation of Classical Greece, based on the Princeton Martin Classical Lectures, and Judith Swaddling with An Etruscan Affair: The Impact of early Etruscan discoveries on European culture.

Then there is Iain Ferris with Cave Canem: Animals in Roman Civilisation, David Weston Marshall with Ancient Skies: Constellation Mythology of the Greeks, Jeremy Mynott with Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words, Carolyn Roncaglia with Northern Italy in the Roman World: From the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity, Simon Elliott with Septimius Severus in Scotland: The Northern Campaigns of the First Hammer of the Scots, and Roger White and Mike Hodder’s Clash of Cultures?: The Romano-British Period in the West Midlands.

Among reception works we note Ian Jenkins and colleagues’ Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece, the catalogue of the British Museum exhibition running from 26 April to 29 July, and Edgar Vincent’s A. E. Housman: Hero of the Hidden Life, about his poetry and academic life, aided by 81 newly discovered letters.

New texts and translations include two translations from Pamela Mensch: Plutarch’s The Age of Caesar: Five Roman Lives, and Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers.    The latest Oxford Classical Text is Antiphon and Andocides: Speeches (Antiphontis et Andocidis Orationes) edited by Mervin Dilts and David Murphy.  The latest Loeb Classics include EnniusFragments, edited by Sander Goldberg and Gesine Manuwald, Galen’s Hygiene edited by Ian Johnston, and Volume X of their new Livy.    New Oxford World Classics include two from Aristotle: The Art of Rhetoric (translated by Robin Waterfield) and On the Soul and Other Psychological works (translated by Fred D. Miller, Jr.), as well as Anthony Verity’s version of Homer’s Odyssey, which must compete with those of Emily Wilson and Peter Green.    Virgil’s Aeneid also appears in a new version from poet David Ferry.    AeschylusLibation Bearers, edited and translated by Andrew Lyon Brown, is the latest in the Aris & Phillips Classical Texts series (now part of Liverpool University Press).

For those with short attention spans, Matthew Nicholls has edited 30-Second Ancient Greece: The 50 Most Important Achievements of a Timeless Civilization, each Explained in Half a Minute (300 words and one image).  Cath Senker has a juvenile version: Ancient Greece in 30 Seconds: 30 Fascinating Topics for Kid Classicists Explained in Half a Minute.  Similarly, there is Charles PhillipsThe Ancient World in Minutes.

Among children’s books we note, for ages 7-9, Museum Mystery Squad and the case of the Roman Riddle by Mike Nicholson (illustrated by Mike Phillips) and a new Asterix and the Chariot Race by Jean-Yves Ferri (illustrated by Didier Conrad and René Goscinny).  For ages 9-12, we note the latest from Rick Riordan: The Dark Prophecy and The Burning Maze in the Trials of Apollo series, the latest from Caroline Lawrence: Return to Rome in the Roman Quests series, and a new time-travel from Ben Hubbard: Roman Britain and Londinium.

Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association, and writes regularly for the CA Blog on Classics in the Media.            

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Cymru Wales Classics Hub INSET Day at Lampeter (December 2017)

by Matthew Cobb

On the penultimate Saturday (16th) before Christmas, when many schools and sixth forms were finishing up for the (calendar) year, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David hosted a teacher training day for Classicists. This event was part of a series of INSET days organised by the Cymru Wales Classics Hub, the first of which was hosted by Swansea University, and the second by Cardiff University. This third INSET day, organised by Dr Matthew Adam Cobb, was held on Lampeter Campus.

A range of workshops were run by Classicists and Ancient Historians from the Faculty of Humanities, including Dr Cobb, Dr Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen, Dr Fiona Mitchell, Dr Ruth Parkes and Dr Kyle Erickson. Closely allied to the OCR Classical Studies syllabus, these workshops covered themes as diverse as ‘heroic masculinity in art’ to the ‘portrayal of the Julio-Claudian emperors’. The sessions were designed to explore creative and interactive ways of engaging with pupils/students – a particular focus of the sessions run by Dr Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen and Dr Kyle Erickson – as well as means of getting them to think in a more nuanced and critical way about the source material.

A number of teachers and aspirant teachers from across the UK attended the event. All present were keen, engaged and had very constructive experiences (as can be judged from the very positive feedback). Thanks to the kind support of the Classical Association, we were able to offer the attendees a free lunch, and teas and coffees, as well as a modest travel reimbursement. 

The fourth in the series of CWCH INSET days is expected to run later in 2018.  

Dr Matthew Cobb is a Lecturer in Classics at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, whose research interest lies in the cultural and economic interaction between the Mediterranean and Indian spheres.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Classics in Communities resources for ‘non-specialist’ teachers of Latin and/or Ancient Greek

by Arlene Holmes-Henderson

Background to the Classics in Communities project

The Classics in Communities project is a partnership between the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the Iris Project. It was set up in response to the primary curriculum reforms which were implemented in England from September 2014. In the Key Stage 2 (KS2) Languages curriculum, for the first time, Latin and Classical Greek can be chosen for study by pupils aged 6-11. The project particularly targets schools which might not otherwise consider the option. It has twin aims: to equip teachers in primary schools with the skills and knowledge necessary to teach these languages; and to conduct parallel research to determine the impact of Classical language learning on children’s cognitive development.

In collaboration with project funders and supporters, we are pleased to launch two new ranges of digital resources.

How to get started with Latin guides

In response to requests from ‘non-specialist’ teachers of Latin, we produced simple guides to inform teachers how they might begin to introduce Latin into their school curriculum. The primary guide explains ways in which Latin fulfils language policy requirements in England and Scotland for pupils aged 7-11. It also combines, in one document, various suggestions regarding funding, resources and training.

The guide for secondary teachers details possible approaches to the introduction of Latin either on-, or off-timetable. Step-by-step instructions for discussion with school leaders and governors are provided. Furthermore, the document contains an overview of the funding available to state schools, as well as some suggestions regarding resources and training.

Pedagogy videos

Non-specialist teachers often ask how to introduce key topics or language concepts in Latin/Ancient Greek to pupils. With the support of the Oxford Classics Faculty Media team, we recorded six videos featuring experienced practitioners discussing effective teaching strategies and offering suggestions for classroom activities:

(a)   Teaching the Greek alphabet
(b)   Teaching the definite article in Greek
(c)   Teaching the Latin cases
(d)   Teaching Latin verb tenses
(e)   Teaching the Ablative Absolute in Latin
(f)   Teaching the Indirect Statement construction in Latin

The Latin films can be accessed here and the Greek films here.  The skills progression grids for primary Latin created in 2014 are still available here.

To learn more about the Classics in Communities project please contact our administrator at

The Classics in Communities project would like to thank the Classical Association and the A.G. Leventis Foundation for their generous support in helping the project generate these resources.

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is a language education specialist who conducts research and provides training for schools and universities, in the UK and worldwide.  She is an academic at both King's College London, where she is working with Professor Edith Hall on the AHRC-funded 'Advocating Classics Education' project, and at the University of Oxford, where she leads research into the impact of Latin and Greek on children's cognitive development for the Classics in Communities project.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Ancient World Immersive Classroom Project

The Durham Sixth Form Centre was awarded a grant of £415 by the CA earlier this year towards the resources required to create an immersive classroom, with the aim of inviting primary schools to take part in lessons about the Ancient World.  Now that the project has been firmly established, it is hoped to hold the sessions more frequently and to run them at local primary schools.

by James Miller

We have twice approached our local primary schools to offer to take their studies on Greece and Rome very much further with an immersive and interactive experience. Costs and time meant that we have to cap this oversubscribed option at 4 classes (c.120 students).

Students came in and did a quick session connecting labels to parts of a temple. They also listed the things they needed in a modern classroom to be a point of comparison with the ancient.

The students were then divided into two groups:

The first – suitably dressed in costumes - went into our classroom and did a series of activities: chanting the Greek alphabet, chanting the Latin numbers, writing on ostraka, writing on cerae with styli, watching (and counting in Latin) our volunteers being beaten, in line with evidence from pictures such as the one above and reading texts in scriptio continua on papyrus.

I would like to acknowledge a massive debt to Professor Dickey who shared ideas and a chapter of an unpublished book to help with this aspect.

The other half of the group made use of their new facts about temples to build these from confectionery.  Although we did encounter sacrificial octopuses and unicorns (!), it was clear that ideas about what a temple was for and how it was used were involved in their decisions, and some groups had a go at a Pantheon-style domed roof using some impressive round-biscuit corbelling:

Students then swapped their roles (Temple ↔ Classroom). At the close students identified the differences between what they had listed about classrooms and what they had found, and also filled in coloured stars describing one thing they had learned about Temples, one about Education, and the thing they had most enjoyed. No students struggled to identify things learned and all had enjoyed themselves (quite stickily).

Sadly, after the final group left, the gazebo caught the wind and took off in a suicidal bid for freedom, but this has been replaced.

We would like to thank the CA for the funding and (again) Professor Dickey for some of the ideas.

James Miller is Head of Department in Classical Civilisation, Philosophy and EPQ/Lead Practioner at Durham Sixth Form Centre

Monday, 2 October 2017

Lytham St Annes Classical Association: looking ahead after the first three years

by Jayne Kelly

The Lytham St Annes branch of the Classical Association was founded three years ago by seventeen-year old Katrina Kelly, the youngest person to ever form a CA branch. The branch needed 85 members to break even - quite a tall order in an area without a university or state school teaching Latin, Greek or Ancient History in the area. It soon transpired, however, that there were hundreds of ‘closet classicists’ as the branch soon became the largest in the UK, with a current membership of 378 members, including 127 students.

Dr Michael Scott is the branch’s inspiring President, fully supporting the branch’s many outreach activities and delivering his annual Presidential Lecture to enthusiastic audiences each January.  The branch has seven lectures a year; a Junior and Senior Schools Classics Competition, where student finalists deliver presentations on that year’s theme; a Classics Ambassadors initiative where students promote classics and the CA in their local schools and communities; and the Classics Summer School Bursary Awards which enable local students to attend the CAHH Summer School at Repton every year. This year the branch has launched its Summer Treasure Hunt with members going on a ‘Book Dig’ to find classics books for the branch’s bookstall.  This aims to raise money for books for local schools who are studying Latin and/or Classical Civilisation for the first time, due to the excellent work of the Blackpool Hub of Classics for All.

Chair Katrina Kelly reflects upon the LSA branch’s third year:

"We have once again enjoyed a great programme of lectures that has led us on a geographical odyssey around the ancient world, and we have certainly followed our President Dr Michael Scott’s advice to take a globalised view of history. In March, we reached an exciting milestone by welcoming our largest audience to date with over three hundred people hearing celebrated broadcaster Dr Michael Wood retrace the steps of Alexander’s journey to the East. 

At our annual Celebration Evening in June, Dr Scott commended the ‘incredible audiences, intriguing questions, endless enthusiasm and stunning tea and cakes!’ at the branch’s meetings.  None of this would be possible without our dedicated band of volunteers aged from 9 to 90, and our student Classics Ambassadors.

Natalie Haynes with LSA Classics Ambassadors and student members from Runshaw College

To celebrate this work, over eighty of us took over a local restaurant on a cold January night and enjoyed excellent food, company and a themed quiz in our growing classics community.

This year, our popular raffle has helped us raise £1000 for our Summer School Bursary Fund which enabled six students to attend the CAAH Summer School at Repton in July.

As we continue to forge relationships with schools and organisations across Lancashire, we have extended our outreach work and increased our profile amongst young people. In March, seventeen-year old Harvey Phythian of Runshaw College won our second annual Classics Competition (where the finalists impressed a large audience with their winning presentations about figures from the ancient world) with his excellent presentation on Diogenes the Cynic, whilst nine-year old Jonah Crouch of AKS Lytham won the competition for younger pupils. Plans to extend our junior classics competition to other local schools are underway and we are also preparing a festival to mark our fifth year in 2019.

Above: Katharine Backler, (left) University of Oxford, judge of LSA Classics Competition for Senior Schools 2017 with finalists and winner, and Katrina Kelly, (right) Chair, LSA CA

Below: Judge Katrina Kelly, Chair of LSA CA, with finalists and winner of the Junior Classics Competition 2017

We welcome guest bloggers to write short articles for our website (, which are linked to the theme of the month’s lecture or explore the writer’s enthusiasm for the ancient world. Recent examples include theatre reviews, updates on university open days and a report on a trip to Vindolanda by a group of interested members.

We hope that more trips further afield can be arranged in the near future and we now look forward to 2017-18 when we welcome more excellent speakers, including Professor Joann Fletcher, Lindsey Davis and Dr Margaret Mountford, to Lytham St Annes.
We would like to extend our thanks to the Classical Association, and in particular to Barbara Finney, for their ongoing support and for a grant to help fund our Classics Competition. We are very excited about our plans for the next three years and if you would like to get involved in any way at all, then please contact us as we’d love to hear from you!”

Jayne Kelly is the Secretary of the Lytham St Annes branch of the Classical Association, and can be contacted at

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Bristol Classics Hub (South West): reflecting on our first year

by Hannah Walsh

The Bristol Classics Hub was set up in September 2016 to support the development of classical subjects in state schools in the South West. Funded by Classics for All and the Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition and delivered in partnership with the University of Bristol, the hub aims to widen access to Classics by offering a powerful and stable focus for regional development.

Prior to establishing the hub, we carried out preliminary research in June 2016 to gauge the level of interest among headteachers and teachers in local primary and secondary schools regarding the introduction of classical subjects. The results were very positive, with several schools expressing interest in accessing training and mentoring support for their own staff.

Spurred on by this enthusiasm, we decided to move away from the model of student-led Classics classes and clubs (which is used with great success and impact in other hubs) and to focus instead on training non-specialist teachers in schools to lead the introduction of Classics. This shift was driven by our vision that the Bristol hub would play a role in empowering the teachers as well as the young people within each school.
Building strong relationships with individual teachers and departments has therefore been central to the work of the hub this year. By visiting partner schools at regular intervals and responding promptly to teachers’ questions, we have tried to support schools in a more personalised manner. In doing so, it’s become clear that there is no blueprint for the way in which Classics can be introduced into schools; different approaches will work best in different contexts. Therefore, we aim to remain flexible and responsive to the curricular needs or restraints of individual schools at all times.
In practical terms, the hub consists of a 0.3 FTE project co-ordinator who is responsible for liaising with schools, managing day-to-day hub activity and facilitating training. The co-ordinator is supported by Dr Genevieve Liveley and Dr William Guast in the Department of Classics and Ancient History. 

In the space of 10 months, the Bristol Classics Hub has quickly established itself as an important part of the Classics educational community in the South West.  We have:
    • Built up strong relationships with local schools and worked closely with 11 secondary schools and eight primary schools, many in areas of high deprivation;
    • Trained over 60 non-specialist primary and secondary teachers to teach Latin, Greek and Classical  Civilisation on a sustainable basis;
    •  Organised a GCSE and A Level Classical Civilisation conference which attracted over 80 students  from schools across the region;
    • Provided a range of enrichment events and school workshops for pupils aged 5-18.
In the new 2017-18 academic year, over 1,500 students in 14 schools will either have the opportunity to study a classical subject for the first time or to study a greater range of classical subjects.
We have been delighted (and at times overwhelmed!) by the level of demand for Classics within the local state sector. Yet there is no question that the success of the hub over the past year is a testament to the ambition and enthusiasm of committed teachers across the region who have had the courage to embrace Classics and make it work in their own individual contexts in innovative, exciting and powerful new ways.
As the Bristol Classics Hub enters into its second year, we hope to build on this enthusiasm and provide regular opportunities for teachers (in both state and independent sectors) and academics to learn from each other and share good practice through the introduction of Classics ‘Teach Meet’ events and the development of a peer-to-peer mentoring network. We also hope to widen the geographical scope of the hub this year to ensure that as many teachers as possible from across the South West can participate in the network.
In 2017-18, our expanded programme of events will include opportunities for students to demonstrate their Classics learning in fun and creative ways. For example, KS2 & KS3 students will be able to participate in the Latin play competition, run in collaboration with the local branch of the CA in Bristol, and Year 7 students from seven local schools will be involved in our new Ovid in the West Country competition.

Following on from the success of our first Classical Civilisation conference for GCSE and A Level students in March 2017, this event will be held again in March 2018 with increased capacity so that more students can attend. In preparation, we will be formalising our training programme for the University of Bristol student volunteers who will be running plenary and break-out sessions for school students during the course of the conference. University academics will deliver lectures at this event and will also provide a series of six talks over the course of the Autumn term to Year 12 and 13 students who are participating in new Classics and Ancient History stream within the University’s Access to Bristol scheme.

The hub is delighted to have received a further three years’ funding and support from Classics for All, IGRCT and the University of Bristol. In the coming years, we hope to develop our existing relationships with schools in Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire and North Somerset and to build up the infrastructure for Classics in more rural parts of the South West. By creating an environment where schools can draw on local expertise and help one another to embed Classics in the curriculum, we aim to foster the growth of Classics teaching and ensure that classical subjects can put down permanent roots in the curriculum plans of the region’s schools.

For more details about the Bristol Classics Hub, our aims, and how to get involved, as well as blog posts with more detailed reports from many of our events, please visit our website.  A more extensive article about the work of the hub will be published in the Journal of Classics Teaching, Issue 36 (Autumn 2017).

Hannah Walsh co-ordinates the Bristol Classics Hub and Classics for All’s Electra Programme which supports schools to introduce or develop the teaching of Ancient Greek language and culture. She has taught English and Classics in both state and private schools in the South West and is currently studying part-time for a Master’s degree in Education Policy and International Development. You can contact her at: