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)

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Autumn Books 2020

 by Philip Hooker

Once again, I have surveyed The Bookseller’s Buyers’ Guides, looking for forthcoming (or recent) books on classical themes which publishers believe will be of interest to the general reader.   There are not so many this time, so I have again called in a number from elsewhere.    And indicated publication dates may not be currently reliable. Paul Cartledge’s book on Thebes, due in May, widely and favourably reviewed, is not, in fact, emerging as a hardback until November; at this stage we just have the e-book.

I start with two outstanding books from leading scholars. Roy Gibson’s Man of High Empire, the Life of Pliny the Younger, was very highly praised by Rebecca Langlands: “A wise and humane biography, finely crafted....Gibson writes beautifully, with gentle wit, and his insights are so grounded in vivid landscapes as to linger in the mind long after the book has been laid aside”. Edith Hall and Henry Stead have produced A People’s History of Classics: Class and Greco-Roman Antiquity in Britain and Ireland 1689 to 1939 – the influence of the subject on ordinary working people. It tells of Chartist Banners, Staffordshire pots, Dissenting schools, autodidacts, Robert Tressell’s debt to Plato, the work of Christopher Caudwell and Jack Lindsay and much more. The Morning Star’s reviewer called it a riveting and entertaining read, “a classic in every sense of the word”. David Butterfield, in History Today, was less impressed; he noted the almost complete lack of coverage of the role of grammar schools and the likes of Richard Porson; its “rich and varied pickings have much to teach and inspire”, but it does lack balance.

There are two notable books which are likely to feature at literary festivals. Peter Stothard offers The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar. Octavian tracked them all down, but Cassius Parmensis, poet and sailor, evaded his agents for 14 years. “A political thriller and a human story that astonishes” declares Hilary Mantel. Natalie Haynes has Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths (“Box”, we are told, was a 16th century mistranslation of pithos by Erasmus).

Popular fiction includes the latest works from Harry Sidebottom, Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden, Robert Fabbri, Simon Turney, Antony Riches and Christian Cameron. These continue to sell very well. The most imaginative work is probably Philip Womack’s The Arrow of Apollo, a fresh interpretation of Greek Myth for young adults, set in Achaea and Mycenae 15 years after the Trojan War.

We also note a number of non-fiction works by what might be called professional authors (rather than academics). These include Adrian Goldsworthy’s Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors, a double biography based in Macedon, Guy de la Bédoyère’s Gladius: Living, Fighting and Dying in the Roman Army, and Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome.

Broadening our scope, we have Robin Lane Fox with The Invention of Medicine: from Homer to Hippocrates (whose Books 3 and 5 may belong to a much earlier era than generally recognised), Benjamin Wardhaugh’s The Book of Wonders: How Euclid’s Elements Built The World – influencing 2,000 years of art, philosophy and literature, and Pauline Allen and Bronwen Nash with Greek and Latin Letters in Late Antiquity: The Christianisation of a Literary Form.

Less literary works include Susan Woodford’s Greek and Roman Art in the Art Essentials series and a new series of multimedia Apple e-books on ancient theatre for the 21st century edited by Fiona McIntosh and team, currently the Agamemnon (in instalments), previously Medea, based on APGRD’s collected materials. Naxos’ latest classical audiobook is Tacitus, read by David Timson – and Julian Morgan has published Quare id Faciam: The Latin Puzzle Book – 100 word games, all in Latin, “definitely not a book for Latin beginners”.

New translations include Virgil’s Aeneid by Shadi Bartsch and a continuing series from Princeton with jolly titles – How to Be Content: An Ancient Poet’s Guide for an Age of Excess is Horace translated by Stephen Harrison; How to Give: An Ancient Guide to Giving and Receiving is Seneca translated by James Romm and How to Drink: A Classical Guide to the Art of Imbibing is Vincent Obsopoeus translated by Michael Fontaine. New texts and commentaries include Juvenal: Satires Book V edited by John Godwin, Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannus edited by Jenny March and (in the CUP Green and Yellow series) Plautus: Pseudolus edited by David Christenson. 

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


Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Advocating Classics Education: an update for 2020

by Arlene Holmes-Henderson

The Advocating Classics Education (ACE) project is a national campaign to increase access to the study of the Classical world in secondary schools and sixth form colleges across the United Kingdom. Led by Professor Edith Hall and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson and based at King’s College London, ACE is a partnership of fifteen partner universities in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Since 2017, the project has co-hosted twelve high profile events for teachers, students and members of the public to raise the profile, currency and status of qualifications in Classical Civilisation and Ancient History. The project was awarded a major grant by the CA in 2019, and it is my pleasure to provide an update on our activities.

British Museum

An exciting new development in our collaboration strategy is our partnership with the British Museum. Launched in December 2019, ACE is working together with the Schools and Young Audiences Team at the British Museum to optimise the support available to Classics teachers and students. On 6 December, we contributed to the British Museum’s Troy Study Day, which was a sold-out event for 100 sixth form Classics students and their teachers. Professor Hall gave three subject knowledge enhancement lectures, then a plenary lecture, on themes including Greek drama, Greek religion, Homeric epic and Roman epic.

On 13 January, we hosted an ACE event at the British Museum for teachers only. This lecture provided additional textual breadth and depth for the ‘World of the Hero’ component of A Level Classical Civilisation. Afterwards, attendees were given complimentary access to the Troy exhibition. 

On 24 February, we again collaborated to offer ‘OCR Classics in 20 British Museum objects, a day for learners and teachers to experience the prescribed objects for Classical Civilisation and Ancient History ‘up close’. Afterwards, attendees had free access to the Troy exhibition. Completely free, 125 tickets for this day ‘sold out’ just 48 hours.  Clearly there is significant demand for this type of museum-based learning event.

© A.Holmes-Henderson

Classics in Scotland

We held a successful ACE event at the Hunterian museum, University of Glasgow in March 2018. Since then, the Classical Association of Scotland has made good progress in promoting Latin and Classical Studies as Curriculum for Excellence subjects viable for study in primary and secondary schools. We look forward to co-hosting an event entitled ‘Introducing Classics in State Schools’ on 11 March with the CAS and our partner, the University of St Andrews. Invitations have been issued to teachers and school leaders in Fife, Perthshire and Dundee. Contact Nikoletta Manioti at for further details.

Judging Competitions

Dr Holmes-Henderson has recently made her first trip to the country’s largest Classical Association branch to judge the Lytham St Annes Classics competition on 7 March. This year’s question was ‘Which three characters from the ancient world would you invite to a party and why?’.

On 25 March, Professor Hall and Dr Holmes-Henderson are judging the Latin spelling bee at Harris Academy Chafford Hundred in Essex. 30 schools have entered so it promises to be a buzzy event! Professor Hall will give a keynote lecture to all teaching staff and pupils and Dr Holmes-Henderson will provide a CPD workshop for Classics teachers on Classical rhetoric and critical literacy.

Classical Association Conference

ACE is giving a panel of papers at the CA conference in Swansea on 18 April. Our panel title is ‘Accessing Classical Civilisation and Ancient History in Britain, Past and Present Perspectives’. Professor Hall will provide a historical overview. Dr Henry Stead (St Andrews) will share his research into access to Classics via adult education in the 19th century. Dr Holmes-Henderson will provide and analyse statistics showing who has access to Classics in British schools today and Peter Wright (Blackpool Sixth form College) will talk about the growing community of Classics learners in Blackpool. We will join our partners at Swansea University for the schools’ session on 17 April and will use the occasion of the conference to promote the benefits of collaboration between schools and universities.

Promoting Classical Civilisation and Ancient History around the UK

We continue to visit schools and multi-academy trusts to promote the study of the classical world in translation. Professor Hall has made successful visits to Bristol, Hartlepool, Derby, Bromley, Oxford, Guildford and several London schools in the last few months. In a special initiative, she has been visiting NewVIc Sixth-Form College in East London for the Curriculum Enhancement Programme; this college now has a tradition of sending students to read Classical subjects at KCL. The entire group of Gifted and Talented students came to KCL to participate in a 'play-in-a-day' performance of Sophocles' Antigone, with a workshop afterwards on its relevance to political problems today. Professor Hall was also a keynote speaker at a national conference on Curriculum Enrichment at NewVIc in January 2020.

Dr Holmes-Henderson is also providing CPD workshops for English teachers this year. On 1 February, she was the keynote speaker for the TM English Icons conference in Sheffield, and in June she will lead a session at TM Leeds. These events are attended by hundreds of English teachers and are an excellent way of showcasing the appeal of Classical subjects.

Hosting school groups at KCL

Professor Hall has organised, hosted and spoken at several events in the winter of 2019-2020 at KCL. Large groups of school students have come to hear bespoke lectures connecting the ‘World of the Hero’ option to the Troy exhibition at the British Museumparticularly successful events have been run for Runshaw College and Maidstone Grammar School.

© A.Holmes-Henderson

Teaching materials and videos to support Classical Civilisation GCSE and A Level courses

Following our highly successful teachers’ summer school in July 2019, we have uploaded a range of resources to support the learning and teaching of Classical Civilisation qualifications in schools.  These include videos from KCL academics on GCSE, AS and A Level components, and accompanying powerpoint presentations and handouts.  See the ACE website for full details.

Policy influence

We successfully applied for funding from Research England to accelerate the strategic impact of our advocacy work, and in 2020 we will work with key stakeholders in Westminster, Whitehall, the Senedd, Holyrood and Stormont to raise the profile of Classical subjects within national curricula and assessment frameworks.

International interest in the work of ACE continues to grow; in April and May, Professor Hall will be addressing national conferences of teachers and classicists in both Belgium and the Netherlands on the merits of Classical Civilisation and Ancient History courses and ways to introduce them. We are thrilled to be continuing this important and exciting work for Classics education nationally. If you have any requests, suggestions or ideas you’d like to share with us, please email us at

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson is a Research Fellow in Classics Education at King’s College London.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Spring Books 2020

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 (plus a number sourced elsewhere).

Pride of place goes to two big, wide-ranging, books by two of our most notable scholars. Greg Woolf has The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History, due in May. This covers Athens and Sparta, Persepolis and Carthage, Rome and Alexandria, a vivid panorama of the ancient world. Meanwhile Paul Cartledge offers Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece, also due in May. Thebes was once the most powerful city in Greece, the birthplace of Hercules, the home of the Sphinx and Oedipus, which sided with Xerxes and the Persians and later with Sparta to quash democracy in Athens, only to be utterly destroyed by Alexander the Great. It’s a big story.

In different vein, we call attention to Helen Morales with Antigone Rising: The Subversive Power of Ancient Myths – and its modern legacies, from MeToo to the imagery of Beyoncé. It is seriously feminist, as might be expected from the author of Pilgrimage to Dollywood. The most notable work of fiction is probably from Lindsey Davis with The Grove of the Caesars, the eighth instalment of the Flavia Albia series. There is still a possibility of a television series featuring Falco; in November, Mammoth Screen announced that they were in “advanced development” talks with ITV; this probably means that the BBC turned the project down (again), but that ITV are now looking at it. In the meantime, we must rest content with occasional repeats of the Anton Lesser radio serials on Radio 4 Extra.

Many of the works featured in previous notes are about to appear in paperback – those of Daisy Dunn, Armand D’Angour, Jerry Toner, Mary Norris, Natalie Haynes, Simon Turney, Adrienne Mayor, for example, who were all favourably reviewed and sold well in hardback.

Among scholarly works, we single out The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek and Roman Science, edited by Liba Taub and How Dead Languages Work by Coulter H. George (Greek, Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Old Irish, Biblical Hebrew). Philip Matyszak with Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World covers 40 ancient civilisations – from the Hyksos to the Hephthalites and everyone in between – and certainly has range. Andrew Bayliss offers The Spartans, a useful paperback guide.  Denise Allan and Mike Bryan have compiled Roman Britain … And Where to Find ItPiero Boitani’s A New Sublime: Ten Timeless Lessons on the Classics is based on a popular series for Swiss radio.

For lighter entertainment, we commend Sarah Rowley with Latin Rocks On, based on a renowned Twitter account, with Latin versions of popular song lyrics from Martin Gaye to Madonna, Take That to Taylor Swift. Simon Walters with The Borisaurus: The Dictionary of Boris Johnson explores the great man’s extensive vocabulary and explains most of his classical references. We also note the growing number of audio books, ideal for long journeys – Naxos are about to publish Xenophon’s The Persian Expedition read by David Timson; he has previously done Herodotus, Apollonius, Apuleius and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall; Anton Lesser has voiced the Iliad and the Odyssey; others have done Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Thucydides and Plutarch’s Greek Lives. The great recent bestseller is Stephen Fry with Mythos.

New translations include After Callimachus by Stephanie Burt, Josiah Osgood’s translated selections from Suetonius (How to be A Bad Emperor - An Ancient Guide to Truly Terrible Leaders), Sophocles' Oedipus the King (in verse) by David Kovacs and Aristotle's The Nicomachean Ethics by Adam Beresford (from Penguin). New texts include Loebs of Appian (another volume from Brian McGing) and Livy (another volume from J. C. Yardley), Oxford Classical Texts of Aulus Gellius (by Leofranc Holford-Strevens) and ApuleiusPhilosophical Works (by Giuseppina Magnaldi), as well as Cambridge Green and Yellows of Virgil's Aeneid Book XI (Scott McGill), Plautus' Pseudolus (David Christenson), Achilles TatiusLeucippe and Clitophon (Tim Whitmarsh) and EuripidesCyclops (Richard Hunter and Rebecca Laemmle). There is also is a new Collins Latin Essential Dictionary “for all the words you need every day”, which is presumably rather basic and inexpensive.

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

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Studying Classical Civilisation and Latin with the National Extension College (NEC)

by Rea Duxbury

The National Extension College (NEC) is a pioneer of online and distance learning, existing to transform lives through education.

Our online A level Classical Civilisation and Latin: A Course for Beginners enable learners of any age and background the opportunity to access tutor-supported courses. Students are able to step back in time to explore the Greco-Roman world wherever they are and at any time, widening access to these dynamic subjects.

A level Classical Civilisation

Students enrolled on A level Classical Civilisation with NEC study poetry, plays, comedy and themes such as cults, rituals and religion. Along the way, they make fascinating connections to the politics, culture and society of ancient Greece and Rome.

Homer’s Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid and the works of Euripides, Sophocles and Aristophanes transport students to the ancient world.

NEC student Julia: “Classical Civilisation A level wasn’t offered by the last school I went to...It’s down to NEC that I was able to go to university, and that I studied the subject I have loved since being a child...I’m sure my life would have taken a very different course without NEC.” - Julia went on to study for a BA in Classical and Archaeological studies with French at the University of Kent. She then completed a Masters in Ancient History at King’s College London.

Through this course, students make an informed analysis of the issues and values that shaped classical civilisation. They learn how to develop and present coherent, well-evidenced arguments and also sharpen their analytical and critical thinking, skills that are vital for higher education and the workplace.

NEC students achieved a 100% pass rate in A level Classical Civilisation in 2019, with 25% of students achieving an A* or A grade.

Studying A level Classical Civilisation opens up a wide range of opportunities. Many of our students go on to study a classics course or other subjects at university and pursue varied career paths.

NEC student Miranda studied Classics at the University of Cambridge and then an MSc in the Evolution of Language and Cognition at the University of Edinburgh. She says: “What my educational journey has taught me is that life is not limiting in terms of what you can learn and how you can go about learning it. Further, the need to work does not inhibit study if you choose the right support networks. NEC has, thus far, been the best institution to understand this.”

Latin: A Course for Beginners

NEC’s ‘Latin: A Course for Beginners’ enables students to develop their language skills and read Latin texts in their original.

Students on the course are given the opportunity to study and translate extracts of texts originally written in Latin; these sources include extracts from the Aeneid by Virgil, letters written by Caesar, fables by Phaedrus and a ghost story from the Letters of Pliny. Working with these extracts gives students a true sense of the language and, coupled with the additional background topics on Roman history, provide a rich beginning to a fascinating area of study.

NEC tutor Ed: “Learning Latin (and Greek) and being able to read the literature in the original has been the most rewarding and enriching experience of my life. If you’re interested in literature, of any kind, literature that excites the imagination, strikes awe into the soul and invites you into some of the most fantastic minds ever to record their thoughts in words, it’s all there. Virgil, Catullus, Cicero, Tacitus, Livy: these are incomparable writers...but by heaven when you know the original you see so much more...So, if you want a challenging, intellectually satisfying, life-enhancing opportunity, studying Latin is it.” - Ed is our lead tutor in Economics, Classical Civilisation and Latin. Ed studied Classics at Trinity College Dublin and then at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, where he conducted research into the narrative technique of Greek epic; he later studied economics and linguistics at the Open University.

Latin is also a springboard for students to understand other subjects more deeply:
Humanities - studying Latin helps students gain a deeper understanding of the English language, with Shakespeare and Milton drawing extensively on their knowledge of Latin literature. Moreover, the foundational ideas of history, philosophy and theology are often based on works written in Latin.
Other languages - students wanting to progress to study other languages find Latin a great option as it is the root of European languages such as French and Spanish. Showing an aptitude for languages through Latin extends to computing, where programming languages are used.
Law - not only do many legal terms derive from Latin but by studying the subject, students showcase their ability to analyse information and learn a new language.
Medicine - like law, much medical terminology derives from Latin, enabling students to understand the roots of words they come across.
Art - an understanding of the artworks of the ancient world is enhanced through knowledge of Latin. A pairing of arts and languages can prepare students for work in conservation and curation, or aid their travel experiences.
The ancient Greeks and Romans created a legacy that has shaped literature, language, arts, politics and philosophy. We are proud to be able to offer Classical Civilisation and Latin to learners across the UK and beyond.
About the National Extension College
Co-founded in 1963 by Michael Young as a forerunner for the Open University, NEC is a long-standing independent educational charity.
NEC provides both a solution for schools wanting to maintain a broader curriculum and for adults and young people wanting to engage in lifelong learning.
Features of studying with NEC include: flexibility, personal tutorial support, bespoke course materials and an exam booking service.
Rea Duxbury is Marketing & Research Assistant for the National Extension College

Friday, 22 November 2019

‘The Song of Arms and a Man’ at Charterhouse

by Sheila Conway

When one of our members suggested to the committee that we find a local venue to host The Latin Qvarter’s production, ‘The Song of Arms and a Man’, we didn’t know what we were undertaking. As we understood it, we were being asked to find a venue and book hotel accommodation for the performers, then advertise the event locally and to Guildford Classical Association (GCA) members. This was what generally happened when we arranged for speakers to come and talk to our local audiences.

We contacted local schools who often host our events for us. As expected, since the performance was scheduled for a Saturday evening, day schools were unable to help. However, Charterhouse very kindly offered to host the event in their beautiful Great Hall. Their Head of Classics, Jonathan Nelmes, was enthusiastic and planned to organise a whole ‘Virgil week’ at school prior to the performance, which was to be the culminating event.

We booked accommodation nearby for the performers and thought our part in the organisation of the event was largely over, bar a bit of advertising. How wrong we were! Our real work was only just beginning. It was at this point that it dawned on us that we were responsible for pricing and selling tickets as well as all the publicity, and, most scarily, responsible for footing the bill if the event made a loss! 

As we began to comprehend just what we had undertaken, we had serious misgivings. After all, a performance of the Aeneid, much of it in Latin, has very niche appeal. How many people these days still study Latin, or feel up to a whole evening of it? Many of those for whom Latin was a fundamental part of their education are now so elderly that they think twice about going off to a performance at night, particularly at a distant venue in the countryside. On the plus side, Virgil’s Aeneid is a central part of the syllabus at GCSE, A Level and university, for both Latin and Class Civ students. And how better to get an understanding of the whole story than by watching a live performance, hearing the beautiful sonority of the Latin and experiencing at first hand the depths of emotion in this very human story? We couldn’t deny this opportunity to our local students, teachers and classics enthusiasts.

Having decided to go ahead with the venture, our next job was pricing the tickets and working out what concessions we could offer. This was much harder than it sounds. We had good estimates of costs from The Latin Qvarter and Charterhouse, but how many of our members would come? And how many local schools would arrange to bring groups of students? Would university students travel all the way from London, Reading and Southampton? In short, would we have an audience of two hundred, or only forty?

It is at this point that we were helped enormously by the Classical Association and the Roman Society, who both gave us generous grants towards the costs of the performance, and by the businessman, Richard Balfour, who very kindly agreed to underwrite the event. We are extremely grateful to all three, without whose generosity we would probably not have dared to go ahead.

It was hard work finding and approaching contacts at different universities and local organisations who might be willing to help publicise the event, as well as distributing posters and leaflets and informing our own members and local schools. George Sharpley at The Latin Qvarter was very helpful, providing an eye-catching leaflet and making sure we didn’t miss a trick on the advertising.

The performance was due to take place at Charterhouse on Saturday, 5th October. As the day approached, we were increasingly worried. Several schools which had originally wanted to bring large numbers of students were, for various reasons, unable to come. A fortnight before the performance we had still only sold about seventy tickets; we were on course to make a loss of over £2,000. Then ticket sales started to improve, and finally some schools confirmed bookings. On the night, we had an audience approaching a hundred and seventy – a record for this event. Our finances were safe, but we sold right out of programmes and had to disappoint some. 

At last the players: George Sharpley (narrator), Emma Kirkby, Victoria Punch (standing in at short notice for the indisposed Elizabeth Donnelly), Matthew Hargreaves, Llewellyn Morgan and Eileen Zoratti, assembled and the performance began. The audience was hushed and expectant as the piper, Callum Armstrong, got everyone’s attention. How exciting to hear a real aulos player! The English narrative beautifully echoed the original Latin and set the scene for the Latin extracts. It was entrancing seeing such well-known passages brought to life - acted out and performed in impressively fluent and expressive spoken Latin. 

There was a real buzz during the interval while everyone enjoyed welcome refreshments before settling down to the emotional finale of the tale. All too quickly, the performance was over, bows and curtain calls were taken, and the audience departed. As they left, we heard a huge number of compliments about the production. The audience were obviously thrilled by the performance and very glad that they had come. In that moment we knew we had been right to keep our nerve, and all the work beforehand seemed worthwhile.

Sheila Conway is the Hon. Secretary of the Guildford branch of the Classical Association.  See here for further details of  the branch.

See here for further information about The Latin Qvarter and 'The Song of Arms and a Man'.