Thursday, 23 September 2021

CA Honorary President 2021-2022: Stephen Fry

 by Arlene Holmes-Henderson

We are absolutely delighted that Stephen Fry will be the Honorary President of the Classical Association in 2021-2022. A national treasure, Stephen is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter and film director.

Stephen is well known for his love of the ancient world. His bestselling trilogy of books Mythos, Heroes and Troy retell Greeks myths from theories of the world’s beginnings to the aftermath of the Trojan War. In 2019, he took these Greek myths on tour in a sold-out show around the UK via MythosLive: Gods.Heroes.Men.

Born in London, Stephen grew up in Norfolk and gained his A-Levels at City College, Norwich. He gained a scholarship to study at Queens' College, Cambridge but taught briefly at Cundall Manor, a preparatory school in North Yorkshire before taking up his place. Stephen has been a stalwart support of educators throughout his career: paying tribute to the world’s teachers during the Global Teacher Prize (2020) and sending a message of support to teachers in his home county via Radio Norfolk in January 2021. His book on poetic form, The Ode Less Travelled, is widely used in schools and colleges as a guide to prosody.

As a proudly out gay man, the award-winning Out There, documenting the lives of lesbian, bisexual gay and transgender people around the world is part of his thirty year advocacy of the rights of the LGBT community. Stephen’s most recent television role in 2021 was Tory MP Arthur Garrison in Russell T. Davies’s award-winning series for Channel 4, It’s A Sin.

He has been President of Mind, Britain’s largest mental health charity since 2011, and an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists for over ten years.

Stephen has won many prizes for his performances as an audiobook narrator – of his own works and most notably as the voice of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Players of videogames may also recognise his voice: he is the narrator of the first four Harry Potter games as well as LittleBigPlanet, Fable II and Fable III.

We look forward to working with Stephen to engage all Classics enthusiasts in communities around the UK. Via our local branches, Teaching Board and annual conference, we will work together to showcase the breadth and diversity of ancient world studies while continuing to value and celebrate educators of Classical subjects at all levels.

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is the Classical Association's Outreach Officer





Monday, 30 August 2021

Preparing for your first CA conference as a teacher

by Arlene Holmes-Henderson

On Monday 14th June 2021, the Classical Association (CA) hosted a virtual event for schoolteachers, designed to provide information, and dispel myths, about presenting at a CA conference as a teacher. Devised and hosted by the CA’s Outreach Officer, a former schoolteacher herself, the event was a successful example of collaboration and knowledge exchange across educational phases, with both academics and teachers presenting. 

The organisers of the forthcoming CA conference in Swansea 2022, Ian Goh and Maria Oikonomou gave a short presentation explaining the difference between a paper and a panel, outlining what makes a successful abstract and charting the process from abstract submission to conference presentation.

Three teachers then provided personal testimonies of their CA conference presentation (and attendance) experiences. Pete Wright (Blackpool Sixth), Gemma Williams (Allerton Grange School, Leeds) and Andrew Christie (Streatham and Clapham High School) explained which CA conference they had attended, what their paper title had been, how many people had been in the audience, whether they applied as a paper or as part of a panel, how they handled questions and whether the conference had been as expected.

In a Question and Answer session, Pete, Gemma and Andrew then answered questions such as: 

a)       What approach did each of you take to your ‘presenting style’? Did you read from a           prepared script, talk through powerpoint slides or something else?

b)      How did you handle questions from the audience?

c)       Tell us about your liaison with the panel chair.

d)      Did you produce a handout?

e)      How long did your presentation last?

f)        Did you get time off from your school to attend the conference?

g)       Did you pay to attend the conference, or was there some support available?

Pete, Gemma and Andrew ended by sharing their top three tips for aspiring teacher presenters. These included suggestions such as, ‘Go for it! You present information in an engaging way every day, why would 20 minutes at the CA be any different?’ and ‘Don’t try to cover too much – the time goes really quickly’. 

Ian and Maria ended the event by promoting Swansea’s tourist attractions – the conference is about more than just the academic papers - and making it clear that abstract submissions from teachers are especially welcome, with one whole theme dedicated to Pedagogy, Outreach and Technology. Other possible themes include Classics and the Future and Digital Classics.

Full details can be found on the Conference page of the CA website.

Because this event was the first of its kind, we were keen to gather feedback from participants. Results showed that 100% of attendees found the event ‘extremely useful’. 100% of attendees felt better informed about writing an abstract. 100% of attendees felt better informed about the difference between a panel and a paper. 100% of attendees said it was ‘likely’ that they would submit an abstract to the Swansea conference. When asked what they found most surprising, comments included: ‘how many people attend the CA conference’ and ‘that academics are keen for schoolteachers like us to get involved and have our say’.

The CA is the subject association for educators at all levels, and the conference is an important venue for bringing them into conversation.

The event was recorded and can be watched here (the playlist includes five videos of different sections of the event).

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is the Classical Association's Outreach Officer

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Two CA Officers contribute to volume on Classics Education

By Alex McAuley

In what must be a first for the Classical Association, two CA Officers, Arlene Holmes-Henderson and Alex McAuley, have each published a contribution to the volume Our Mythical Education, edited by Lisa Maurice.

The volume is part of the ERC-funded Our Mythical Childhood project, and examines the reception and use of ancient myths in formal education in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries across a wide variety of geographical case studies.

Arlene Holmes-Henderson’s chapter ‘Developing Multiliteracies through Classical Mythology in British Classrooms’ examines how creative and innovative teaching of classical mythology can act as a medium through which to enhance literacy. Two case studies from British primary and secondary schools demonstrate how the study of mythology contributes to pupils’ information literacy, cultural literacy and critical literacy skills.

Alex McAuley’s contribution, ‘Reconciling Catholicism with the Classics: Mythology in French Canadian Catholic Education’ considers the tension between the teaching of mythology and religion in Catholic schools in French Canada, and examines how the teaching of pre-Christian Graeco-Roman mythology fit into evolving narratives of French Canadian identity.

The volume has recently been published by the University of Warsaw Press, and is available to download open-access via this link. This research project will also soon be publishing the OurMythical Education Database, which will collate information and resources on the teaching of Classical Mythology for educators and the general public.

Alex McAuley is a Senior Lecturer in Hellenistic History at Cardiff University

Monday, 29 March 2021

Out of Chaos: Reading Greek Tragedy Online

by Paul O'Mahony

I’ve worked in theatre for 18 years - as an actor, writer, producer and director. My theatre company Out of Chaos has toured throughout the UK, Europe, USA and New Zealand, winning several awards along the way. Many of our shows have been inspired by Greek and Roman literature, including Out of Chaos, Unmythable and the upcoming Crossing the Sea.

When the world went into (its first) lockdown in March last year, I contacted Lanah Koelle at The Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC to propose a collaboration: we would live stream scenes from different Greek tragedies, with analysis provided by academics associated with the CHS. My intention was to create a community at a time when we were all separated, and to explore these stories for what they might reveal about our current situation. Lanah was immediately enthusiastic; she told me Joel Christensen from Brandeis University had also been in touch about arranging an online group and we decided to meet via zoom on Tuesday 24th March. After working out some (very) rough details we reconvened 24 hours later for our first reading, Euripides’ Helen. We all enjoyed it immensely, and after that we resolved to live stream an episode every Wednesday for the rest of the year. We ended with 41 episodes including all extant tragedies, a few comedies and episodes on the Iliad and Odyssey (plus a 24-hour reading of the whole poem). Each episode of Reading Greek Tragedy Online is 90 minutes long, containing approximately 45 minutes’ worth of scenes and a further 45 minutes of discussion led by Joel and different guest academics.

Throughout the course of the year, the project gained momentum with increasing numbers of artists from around the world involved. We were able to call upon brilliant performers, and we became more and more ambitious with our stagings - we had a Cyclops rock opera, a 25-strong puppet Frogs chorus, and an incredible performance of Oliver Taplin’s translation of the Oresteia across three consecutive weeks. One of our most frequent collaborators, Tabatha Gayle, coined the term zoomcraft to describe what we were doing – in essence, taking whatever we could find at home and turning it into the stage we used each week. We played with lighting effects (it’s amazing what you can do with a cheap ring light), camera angles, some limited costume choices. Each week actors made bold, informed, inspired choices to bring their characters to life.

We received appreciative messages from audiences across the world, and inspired play reading groups as far apart as Wyoming and Brasilia. We launched an outreach competiton called Playing Medea, inviting US and Canadian students to film scenes from Medea. This proved very successful and, with generous financial support from the Classical Association, we launched the UK Playing Medea at the end of last year. Full details are on the Out of Chaos website.

This year the live streams are switching to a monthly schedule and we’re broadening our scope. We’re performing Thyestes, the Argonautica and the Iliad (again), and exploring reception from the 17th Century to the modern day.

The series has led to numerous exciting collaborations (not least a new Greek Theatre course developed with the British American Drama Academy), and demonstrated the power of performance as a shared experience. We have plans to work together as an ensemble when circumstances allow, and we’re in the process of planning new ways of sharing our work online, including masterclasses and workshops. All episodes will remain online as a free resource.

All episodes can be found here:

And here:

Playing Medea UK competition:

And here’s a new course that has been inspired by the series:

Paul O'Mahony is Artistic Director of Out of Chaos theatre company.

You can find out more about Out of Chaos on 7 April 2021 during the CA's free online conference, where it will feature in a session on Greek theatre online, an evening of classics-inspired theatre followed by a Q&A chaired by Professor James Robson:




Friday, 19 February 2021

Spring Books 2021

 by Philip Hooker

Once again, I have surveyed the Bookseller’s Buyers Guide to find some forthcoming books on classical themes which publishers believe will be of interest to the general reader – and have also called in some more from elsewhere.

I start with works from leading classical scholars. Judith M Barringer’s Olympia: A Cultural History is a splendid survey of the games, the monuments, the oracle, from 600 BC all the way to the late Roman Empire. Anthony Barrett’s Rome is Burning: Nero and the Fire That Ended a Dynasty examines Nero’s role in the great fire of 64 AD; he reckons that he took sensible steps to prevent the fire from spreading, but 15-20% of the city was razed to the ground including many noble houses; when their owners were hard hit by tax increases for the rebuilding, they spun stories about Nero’s iniquity, what might today be called fake news. This is complemented by Thorsten Opper’s Nero which accompanies a new British Museum exhibition with 200 objects, due from May to October. Michael Fulford’s Silchester Revealed presents a full description of the Iron Age and Roman town of Calleva, based on decades of archaeological research.

We have two major feats of reception study. Simon Goldhill’s Preposterous Poetics: The Politics and Aesthetics of Form in Late Antiquity asks how does literary form change as Christianity and rabbinic Judaism take shape? This is, one reviewer opined, “a playful book”. Meanwhile, Edmund Richardson offers Alexandria: The Quest for a Lost City – a wild journey through 19th century India and Afghanistan, featuring Charles Masson, a spy extraordinaire and master of a hundred disguises, who discovered a city in Afghanistan in 1833. This is a follow-up to his Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity, published in 2013.

We also have several works from professional writers. David Stuttard has Phoenix: A Father, A Son, and the Rise of Athens, a novelistic history of Athens by way of the lives of Miltiades and Cimon.   Jeffrey Smith has Themistocles: The Powerbroker of Athens. Philip Matyszak offers A Year in the Life of Ancient Greece: The Real Lives of the People who Lived There – 248BC, an Olympic Year as seen by assorted characters in the Hellenistic World. Alberto Angela, an Italian journalist and TV host, has his 2018 Cleopatra: The Queen who Challenged Rome and Conquered Eternity now in translation; he has, more recently, published the first part of a trilogy on Nero and the fire of Rome. In lighter vein, Philip Womack has How to Teach Classics to Your Dog: A Quirky Introduction to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. “You’d be barking to miss it” declares Michael Scott.

On the fiction front Lindsey DavisA Comedy of Terrors is the ninth Flavia Alba story featuring the Saturnalia, a possible Nut War and threats to Domitian; we also have the latest works from Conn Iggulden (with an Athenian series) and Simon Turney (Rise of Emperors series, with Gordon Doherty).    Slightly Foxed Books are reprinting all of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Roman Britain series for younger readers, starting with The Eagle of the Ninth.

Notable translations include Vergil’s Aeneid, a revision by Susanna Braund of Sarah Ruden’s 2008 version (line by line in iambic pentameters), an Oxford World Classics edition of Epigrams from the Greek Anthology by Gideon Nesbit and two more of the Princeton series with jolly titles – Cicero’s How to Tell A Joke (based on the Ideal Orator, with additional material from Quintilian) by Michael Fontaine and Sextus Empiricus How to Keep an Open Mind by Richard Bett. Kae Tempest’s version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, which is still a planned National Theatre production with Lesley Manville in the lead role and a large all-female cast, should have its text published. The latest Cambridge Green and Yellow is Cicero’s Pro Milone by Thomas J Keeline; the latest Loebs are Petronius’ Satyricon by Gareth Schmeling, Galen’s On Temperaments by Ian Johnston and Livy volume 7 (Books 26-27) by J C Yardley. Douglas Olson has a new Aristophanes commentary – the Clouds, the first major one since Dover.

And then. on March 31st, so Amazon tells us, we should see the long-awaited Cambridge Greek Lexicon, edited by James Diggle and others, rebased on first principles with a study of original texts, in two volumes, part-funded by The Classical Association, one of the great scholarly achievements of our time.

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


Thursday, 10 December 2020

Aristotle and the Ethics of Management Consulting

by David Shaw

The ethics of management consultants, and of management consultancy firms, are often questioned, sometimes with justification. Trust in the professionalism of management consultants depends on clients’ and other stakeholders’ perceptions of their character. Aristotle’s account of virtue ethics, with its emphasis on character, provides a substantial contribution to modern philosophy, and valuable guidance for the ethics of the professions and of business, including that most modern of businesses, management consulting, despite the passage of more than two millennia that separates our time from his.

Aristotle was the son of the physician to the King of Macedon and, perhaps because of this, he frequently draws upon analogies from medical ethics in his work. His work has had considerable influence on the ethical standards advocated for the traditional professions, such as medicine and the law. The ethical standards to be expected in the management consulting industry may be compared with Aristotelian ethical standards appropriate to the traditional professions. While there are clear similarities between management consultancy, as a kind of helping profession, and medicine and the law, the standards adopted in the traditional professions cannot be imported wholesale into management consultancy. Aristotle’s intellectual and moral virtues of prudence, justice, liberality, courage, friendliness and truthfulness can be related to management consulting just as they can to the traditional professions, but in distinct ways. Clients of management consultants are in a far less vulnerable position than a sick patient seeking the help of a doctor, for example, or an accused person seeking the help of a lawyer, so it is reasonable to expect them to be in a much better position to look out for their own interests. The management consulting industry has its own distinct characteristics that must be reflected in the ethical standards that its members should be expected to follow, and in the boundaries that should be set between the ethical obligations of the management consultants and the responsibilities of the clients to look after their own interests.

Aristotle was actuated by an aspiration for human flourishing, whereby people would enjoy all the good things of life that they could with good conscience enjoy without unnecessary prohibitions. He sets a positive target of ethical behaviour at which people should aim in pursuit of this aspiration. The adoption of Aristotelian ethical standards would help ensure that management consultants would undertake good business, wherein the management consultants would have the necessary knowledge and skills to do a good job, meet their clients’ expectations in full, achieve outcomes that would be in the overall interests of their clients, take bold action where that would be what the situation required, and participate in organisational politics but only to the extent that it was in the clients’ overall interests. Management consultancy firms frequently publish codes of ethical practice that are replete with prohibitions, and in practice are frequently cast into shadow by targets for sales, the proportion of consultants’ time than can be billed to clients, and profitability. Management consultants are more likely to be motivated by a positive, Aristotelian target of ethical practice, and to hit it on a regular basis.

Dr David Shaw is a Teaching Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, responsible for teaching Masters students in the School of Business and Management, and researcher in the management of organisational change. He was recently selected as a finalist in the CMCE Consulting Research awards 2020. His paper 'Aristotle and the Management Consultants: Shooting for Ethical Practice' highlights the continuing relevance of classical studies to even the most modern of industries.  

The CMCE Press Release can be seen here.

Monday, 9 November 2020

Writing in the Ancient World

For the last four years, the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge has been home to the CREWS Project (Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems), an ERC-funded research project exploring the scripts and writing practices of the Classical and Near Eastern worlds, how they interconnect and their roles in the societies and cultures that used them. Led by Dr Philippa Steele, the project has always had a strong interest in practical experimentation: we believe that one of the best ways to understand an ancient script is to try and write it, using the materials and techniques of the time. This has seen us trying to find the ideal stylus for inscribing Linear B tablets, experimenting with chopsticks for writing cuneiform, or making our own wax tablets. Not to mention a penchant for ancient writing-themed baking.

Alongside this interest in the materiality of ancient writing, we’ve also always maintained a strong outreach programme. Before this year put a bit of a dampener things, we often spoke to schools groups or ran sessions where children and adults of all ages could try their hands at writing their names in ancient scripts. We were always impressed and delighted by the enthusiasm these garnered, not just for familiar scripts like the Greek alphabet or Egyptian hieroglyphs, but also for the less widely known writing systems of the ancient Mediterranean, like Linear B, the Phoenician alphabet or the alphabetic cuneiform of the Syrian city of Ugarit.

This year, we’ve launched Writing in the Ancient World, a collection of resource packs to help teachers incorporate introduce their pupils to these ancient scripts. Each of the packs includes activities, worksheets and information for both teachers and students, as well as 1-page comics introducing aspects of each script and their worlds. They’re aimed primarily at Key Stage 2 (age 7-11) but should also be useful for older children. The resource packs are supplemented by a number of short YouTube videos where members of the CREWS Project explain how each script works, as well as others covering general thematic discussions or practical advice such as how to run a writing session.


All this material is available for free, thanks to a grant from the University of Cambridge’s School of Arts and Humanities Impact Fund. They can be downloaded direct from the CREWS Blog, or from We’re also very keen to receive feedback, so if you use the resources, we’d really appreciate it if you could let us know how it goes, using the form at the bottom of the resources page

We’ll also be holding a free online certified professional development workshop on 17th November. You can sign up here.

Philip Boyes, CREWS Project (University of Cambridge)